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Haryana leave Punjab far behind

Punjab may be acting like the big brother to Haryana, but when it comes to honouring and rewarding sportspersons from the state who earn international laurels, it seems to be lagging far behind. Medal winners from Punjab are now ruing the fact that they are virtually ‘losers’ even after winning medals at international events.

The comparison that Punjab's sportspersons are making is with those from neighbouring Haryana, who are encouraged to win medals at international events and end up with cash rewards running into millions of rupees, and gifts of luxury cars, smart-phones, good jobs and even good supplies of desi ghee.

In the last few years, Haryana's Bhupinder Singh Hooda government has heaped honours and rewards on its achiever sportspersons, a large number of them women. Even players like badminton champion Saina Nehwal and shooter Gagan Narang, both from Hyderabad but with family connections in Haryana, have ended up with huge cash rewards and other freebies. Fresh from her bronze medal winning achievement at the Glasgow Commonwealth games, wrestler Navjot Kaur wants the Punjab government to learn how to encourage players to achieve more.

Despite the happiness of wining medal in the 69-kg wrestling event, Navjot, who hails from a village in the border district of Tarn Taran near Amritsar, says players from Punjab are not treated at par with their counterparts from Haryana.

‘It was my dream to grab a medal at an international event. But the Punjab government need to back its players. Despite winning medals, I am yet to find a suitable job. I was offered a job at the rank of a constable that I did not take,’ Navjot pointed out.

In Haryana, players with international medals get jobs like deputy superintendent of police (DSP) or inspector after winning medal at an international event.

Punjab players also rue the fact that while the state government spends crores of rupees for promoting kabaddi, a game that has caught the fancy of Punjab’s deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, nothing is being done to encourage players who get international recognition and medals in other sports. The Punjab government spend crores even to invite Bollywood stars and singers to perform at the opening and closing ceremonies of the kabaddi event every year.

Clearly upset with the Punjab government, Navjot lashed out: ‘Since Punjab does not encourage its players the way Haryana does, I would be willing to represent that state if they want.’
Judo player Navjot Chana of Hoshiarpur district, who won a silver at Glasgow, is also upset. ‘Despite repeated efforts, I have not got my due. I continue to work as an ASI (assistant sub-inspector) in the police. I should have been a DSP by now (in Haryana),’ Chana said.

Embarrassed by the outburst of Punjab players, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said players from the state would soon be honoured. In Haryana, which is heading for assembly polls later this year, Hooda is all prepared to honour the state’s medal-winners, having announced substantial cash rewards for them.

Gold medal winners at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games will now get cash rewards of Rs 2 crore ($327,000) and Rs.1 crore, up from Rs.25 lakh and Rs.15 lakh respectively. Silver and bronze medal winners at the Asian Games would now get Rs 1 crore and Rs 50 lakh instead of Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh respectively.

Silver and bronze medal winners at the Commonwealth Games will get Rs 50 lakh and Rs 25 lakh instead of Rs 10 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. The Haryana government has already announced rewards of Rs 5 crore for the winners of gold, Rs 3 crore for silver and Rs 2 crore for bronze medal winners in the Olympics from Haryana.

The Hooda government gave huge cash rewards to all Haryana players after the 2012 London Olympics. Some players even got luxury Audi cars, LED TVs and other goodies.

Wrestler Sushil Kumar, who lives in Delhi but whose family hails from Haryana, got a cash reward of Rs 1.5 crore for his silver medal at the Olympics, while wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, badminton player Saina Nehwal and shooter Gagan Narang got Rs 1 crore each for their bronze medals. Yogeshwar Dutt additionally was given Rs 51 lakh by the Haryana Police, his employer.

‘Sportspersons from Haryana have more fire to win and the results are showing. This will encourage the younger generation to take to sports as a career,’ Sushil Kumar said.

Not only the players, the coaches and villages they come from are also incentivised in Haryana. For example Panchayat of a village of a gold medal winner in international event get Rs 2 lakh, which goes towards the overall development of the village. This also means the villagers have an intrinsic interest in promoting players from their region.

Haryana’s success in sports and its contribution to India’s achievements in that field globally has made the state’s sports model an inspiration for other Indian states.  The state, which account for merely 2 per cent of the country’s land and population, have contributed 33 per cent of the medals won by India at international events in recent past.

‘The incentives offered by Haryana government will definitely help youngsters to take up sports as a career. A lot of boys and girls, who cannot afford training, are now attracted to take up sports,’ said boxer Akhil Kumar, who won gold at 2006 Melbourne CWG and was a quarterfinalist at 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In the past decade, Haryana government had constructed 226 Rajiv Gandhi rural sport complexes and 232 rural sports stadia all over the state under its sports policy. This move has even impressed the Central government which has decided to implement the scheme across the country.
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