Rahul Gandhi’s criticism comes as states announce massive cash prizes for medal-winning Olympic athletes but don’t fulfill their promises.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi took to Instagram and reacted sharply to reports that some of India’s athletes including those who won medals at the Tokyo Olympics, have not yet received cash rewards promised for medals won at other competitive meets such as the 2018 Asian Games.
Mr Gandhi also hit out at political leaders rushing to congratulate athletes in video call, seen by many as a reference to Prime Minister Modi, who held video calls with several of the medal winners and said it was as important to pay the athletes their “dues” as it was to offer praises and congratulations.
“Players should get their dues with the congratulations and not cuts in the sports budgets. Enough with the video calls, now hand out the reward amounts!” he wrote on Instagram.
Attached to his post was the cut-out of a report filed by The Times of India last month, titled “4 years on, Haryana Olympians await cash rewards”. The article quoted athlete’s relatives including those who went to Tokyo as medal hopes, as saying that lakhs in promised cash rewards remained unpaid.
Also attached were screenshots of tweets made in 2019 by Tokyo heroes Neeraj Chopra who won India’s first ever gold in a track-and-field event and Bajrang Punia, who won bronze in wrestling.
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On June 26, 2019, Bajrang Punia had tweeted: “When you promise rewards to the players, then you promise to support the players, not the greed of money, but the players. If you can’t fulfill your promise then what should any player expect from you in future!”
The tweet, in which Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar and Home Minister Anil Vij were tagged – contained a screenshot of a 2018 tweet by Mr Vij that promised ₹ 3 crore as cash reward for Mr Punia for winning a gold medal at the Asian Games that year.
Neeraj Chopra won gold in the men’s javelin throw at the same event that year. Hours later Chopra retweeted that message, adding: “Sir, when we come after winning medals, the whole country is happy… and you proudly say we are from Haryana. The sportspersons of Haryana have left their mark in the world of sports… Let this persevere.”
“And please fulfill what you promised (to give prize money to the player) so we can divert our attention from these things and focus our full attention on the upcoming Olympic Games and can illuminate the name of our country and state.”
Rahul Gandhi’s criticism comes as states, announce massive cash prizes for medal-winning Olympic athletes but don’t fulfil their promises.
This year, the Haryana government has promised Neeraj Chopra ₹ 6 crore, and ₹ 2.5 crore to Bajrang Punia and two members of the men’s bronze-winning hockey team.
However, these same athletes have not yet received promised rewards for earlier victories. Moreover, their medal wins come despite the union budget’s cut in sports funding.
In February the government announced a ₹ 230.78 crore cut in the country’s sports budget. The government had said this was due to “hardly any activity” because of the lockdown.
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