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State sportspersons were also directed to proceed on unpaid leave during the period of their participation in such private leagues and endorsement obligations. In case they are “treated on duty with prior approval”, the full income earned by sportspersons from private league or endorsements would be deposited with Haryana State Sports Council”, the gazette notification said.
Prominent athletes who would have been affected include boxers Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar, former hockey captain Sardar Singh and wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat, all of whom are employed with the Haryana Police.
Caught on the back foot after the controversy erupted, the state government quickly went into damage control mode. Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar tweeted in the evening: “I have asked for the relevant file of sports department to be shown to me and the notification dated 30th April to be put on hold till further orders. We are proud of the immense contribution by our sportspersons and I assure them of a just consideration of all issues affecting them.”
I have asked for the relevant file of Sports Department to be shown to me & the notification dated 30th April to be… https://t.co/wBAJioS6HA
— Manohar Lal (@mlkhattar) 1528456421000
The issue started after Ashok Khemka, principal secretary (sports and youth department, Haryana), issued the notification. Khemka, however, made it clear that the money “shall be used for the development of sports in the state”.
The state government had its own justification. Haryana sports minister Anil Vij reasoned, “It’s the government’s old service rule – Rule 56 – as per which if any government employee generates commercial income or professional income, then he shall have to deposit one-third of such earnings. We had allowed (international boxer) Vijender Singh to play professionally. The (Punjab and Haryana) High Court asked us to frame rules in this regard. We have brought out the rules now.”
However, athletes from the state were not impressed. “God save us from such officials who are taking senseless decisions like this. Their contribution to development of sports in Haryana has been zero but I am sure they will play a big role in the decline of sports in the state. Now athletes will move to other states and these officials will be responsible for this,” tweeted London Olympics bronze medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt.
ऐसे अफसर से राम बचाए, जब से खेल विभाग में आए है तब से बिना सिर -पैर के तुग़लकी फ़रमान जारी किए जा रहे है।हरियाणा के… https://t.co/yl3IxnxFUG
— Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) 1528440101000
Gold Coast CWG silver medallist Babita Phogat criticised the government’s decision, saying, “How can the government give such an order? We pay taxes over whatever we earn and now this notification to pay one-third. The government must understand the sacrifice of an athlete and his/her family behind earning a medal for the country,” she said.
Khemka said the notification had been issued after the state gave an assurance to the court that the Haryana government would bring a policy vis-a-vis those who play professional sports. “Normally, government employees are not allowed to play professional sports. The money will be used for the benefit of sportspersons only,” he said.
However, Gold Coast gold medallist boxer Vikas Krishan Yadav said, “We pay 33 per cent as tax deducted at source (TDS), one-third will be paid to the government as per the new policy, 10 per cent has to be paid to the managers, 10 per cent will be paid to the coaches and around 10 per cent will amount to the equipment and boarding expenses. I will be left with nothing but 3 to 5 per cent of what I earn.”
The secretary general of Haryana Boxing Association, Rakesh Thakran, said, “The state government does not give us a single penny to conduct the state tournament. They do not even give any coach or hold any camps to hone the skills of these players and now when these players have carved a niche for themselves, the government wants to snatch away their money.”
Geeta Phogat of Dangal fame said: “I do not know what the government wants? Earlier, they tried to reduce award money of those who represent other organisations and now they are taking money from the players who are representing the state. These jobs are provided by government to give a boost to sportspersons and with the new policy they are trying to demoralize the players. They are taking money from an athlete to support other athletes. The leagues have come to hone the talent of players. This move will only discourage others to establish leagues.”
Wrestler Mausam Khatri, who is still waiting for the promised CWG prize money, was not aware of the move. He expressed utter disbelief when told about the notification. “This is outrageous. I have incurred huge debts to pay for my diet and training and now the government has put another burden.”