Chandigarh: Haryana boxers shined bright at the International Boxing Association (IBA) Women’s World Boxing Championship 2023 held in Delhi last month. With four golds in its kitty, India topped the medal tally.
Of the four gold medalists, Nitu Ghanghas (48 kg category) and Saweety Boora (81 kg category) are from Haryana. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar handed the world champions offer letters for Group B posts in the sports and youth affairs department, and cheques worth Rs 40 lakh each, last week.
Though it accounts for just 2.1 per cent of India’s population (according to the 2011 Census), Haryana is a powerhouse in Indian sports. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the state contributed half of individual medals with Neeraj Chopra’s gold, Ravi Kumar Dahiya’s silver and Bajrang Punia’s bronze.
The scenario was no different at the 2016 Rio Olympics as the state accounted for half of India’s medals. In the 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games (CWG), Haryana players contributed one-fourth and one-third of the total medals, respectively.
But ever since Khattar came to power in 2014, his government has faced flak from the Opposition for not honouring medal-winning sportspersons with “good jobs” and money the way it was done earlier. Now, these voices are growing shrill, especially after the abolishing of the sports quota in Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) recruitment in February, at a time when assembly elections are just a year away.
Haryana has made changes to its policy for government jobs to medal-winning sportspersons four times in the last five years. The CM holds charge of the sports department.
“The Congress government built an environment by creating infrastructure and honouring medal-winning players with jobs and cash that motivated sportspersons to perform better in international tournaments,” Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda and former Haryana CM told ThePrint.
He added: “It served a dual purpose. The policy was named ‘Padak Lao, Naukri Pao’. While Punjab youth were driven towards drugs, those from Haryana channelled energy towards sports because they knew a medal in an international event was the ticket to a good job and prize money. But this government has distorted the policy to the disadvantage of sportspersons.”
Hooda further said that he gave the post of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) to players who brought laurels to the country through their performance.
“Among those who were appointed DSPs were Sandeep Singh, India hockey captain Sardar Singh, boxers Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar, CWG gold medalist and hockey star Mamta Kharab, T-20 World Cup winner Joginder Sharma, wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt and Geetika Jakhar, and Everest climber Mamta Sodha. However, this government has been offering jobs of lesser importance that don’t attract sportspersons,” he added.
The Congress leader said he also gave land to cricketer Virender Sehwag for setting up an academy.
Khattar’s media adviser Amit Arya told ThePrint that ever since the BJP government came to power, “outstanding sportspersons have been getting jobs and cash within days of winning medals”.
“Take the example of Nitu Ghanghas and Saweety Boora who were given job offers and Rs 40 lakh each within three days of their medal-winning performances. Earlier, sportspersons had to wait for a long period. Today, the cash awards being given to sportspersons are the highest in the world.”
Asked about the Opposition’s allegations, Arya said that the government was ensuring that sportspersons get jobs in their fields of expertise.
A senior government official who was associated with the process when the policy was last amended in 2021, told ThePrint on condition of anonymity that the government decided to do away with its offer of Haryana Civil Services (HCS) or Haryana Police Service (HPS) ports to outstanding sportspersons because of “legal issues”.
He added that the Haryana Civil Services (Executive Branch) Officers’ Association had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the ground that sportspersons could not be presumed to have the skillset needed to perform duties as an executive officer. In a February 2019 order, the High Court had asked Haryana to rethink the rules.
Speaking to ThePrint, Director of the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs Pankaj Nain said that as many as 19 sportspersons were offered Group A jobs under the latest 2021 policy, out of which 15 have joined. Similarly, Group B jobs were offered to 41 sportspersons, of which 25 joined work while 139 out of 156 who were offered Group C jobs have joined duty.
Group C job-holders have been accommodated in education, panchayat and police departments apart from the sports department, he added.
In its report tabled on the floor of the Haryana assembly during the budget session last month, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had found that Rs 41.30 crore in cash awards were granted to ineligible sportspersons from 2004-05 to 2015-16.
Last Thursday, Khattar at a review meeting asked officers to ensure all facilities to sportspersons to boost their performance at national and international events.
Changes in sports policy
In its policy notified on 5 September 2018, the Khattar government went a step ahead of what the erstwhile Hooda administration offered to sportspersons.
Gold medalists in Olympics and Paralympics Games were to be appointed in the Haryana Civil Services (HCS) or Haryana Police Service (HPS) with a seniority of eight years. Similarly, HCS or HPS posts with a seniority of four years were assured for silver medalists, and HCS or HPS posts without seniority for those winning bronze.
For the World Cup medalists, the policy offered HCS or HPS jobs with four years of seniority for gold, HCS or HPS without seniority for silver, and Group A posts except for HCS and HPS for bronze. As for team events, HCS or HPS jobs were offered for gold, Group A jobs for silver and Group B jobs for bronze.
Similarly, the policy also mentioned details of jobs to be offered to medal winners in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and other sporting events, apart from the cash awards.
Another notification was issued on 5 September 2019 that offered Rs 6 crore for winning gold in Olympics or Paralympics, Rs 4 crore for silver, Rs 2.5 crore for bronze and Rs 15 lakh for participation. For Asian and Para Asian Games, gold, silver and bronze medalists were allotted Rs 3 crore, Rs 1.5 crore and Rs 75 lakh respectively. Cash money provided under the policy is Rs 40 lakh for gold, Rs 30 lakh for silver and Rs 20 lakh for bronze in World Cups.
After making minor changes on 3 and 10 September 2019, the Haryana government made major amendments to the policy through a notification issued on 26 February 2021, when it replaced HCS or HPS posts for medal winners with Group A (deputy director), B (senior coach) and C (junior coach) posts in the sports and youth welfare department.
With the Haryana Outstanding Sportspersons (Group A, B & C) Service Rules, 2021, overriding the Haryana Outstanding Sportspersons (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2018, sportspersons could no longer get elite HPS and HCS posts.
While Group A posts were reserved for Asian and Olympic gold winners, Group B and C posts were reserved for silver and bronze winners. For the World Cup and CWG winners, the policy provided Group B jobs for gold and silver medalists and Group C job for bronze winners.
It was under this amended policy that Nitu and Saweety were handed Group B jobs and Rs 40 lakh each for their wins.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
Source: The Print