The Haryana government cancelled the felicitation function for the state's Commonwealth Games medal winners after being threatened with a boycott by top athletes such as wrestler Vinesh Phogat and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra over a proposed cut in prize money.
The function was to be held in Panchkula on Thursday, 26 April, but athletes including Phogat, Chopra and boxer Manoj Kumar refused to attend it, after the state government suggested it may reduce the prize money for athletes employed with units like the Railways and Services.
"We have decided to cancel the programme. We will be holding a meeting soon wherein we will review the existing policy. Under our sports policy, it is quite clear that we have to give award money to those who have played from the state. There is no provision in the present policy to give award to those who have represented other bodies like Railways or the Army." - Anil Vij, Haryana Sports Minister on 25 April
According to Haryana’s sports policy, Phogat and Chopra – who had won golds – were to receive Rs 1.5 crore; Silver medallists were to get Rs 75 lakh while bronze medallist were due to receive Rs 50 lakh.
The Haryana government suggested that they deduct the prize money that the athletes get from their employer, in case of any, from the total reward money. The move is an attempt to ensure that two gold medallists or two silver medallists from the same state do not get different rewards.
Vij said even the reduced prize money being planned for the likes of Phogat (Railways) and Chopra (Services) is a departure from the past provision of not awarding athletes belonging to other units.
"...we gave relaxation in our policy and considered even those players who play for bodies like Railways, lest they feel that they got any less than what their counterparts who represent the state get.
"Everyone is aware that Haryana gives highest award money. What we had said is that we will deduct the prize money that they get from their employer, in case of any, from the total reward money," Vij explained.
Vij added that the sportspersons' objection to the government plan is not justified.
"If we don't go for deduction of this amount, then those who played from Haryana, their reward money will be reduced whereas those who played from other bodies, they will take Rs 1 crore, let's say from Railways as well as get Rs 1.5 crore from the Haryana government," he said.
The preparations for organising the mega awards function at Panchkula had almost been completed.
As per earlier programme, Governor Prof Kaptan Singh Solanki was to honour the medal winners in the presence of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Sports Minister Anil Vij.
Of the 22 CWG medallists from Haryana, 13 represent organisations such as Indian Railways and Army. The Haryana government was to felicitate all 22 medal winners. However, controversy broke out after a few of the medal winners threatened boycott if the government didn't withdraw its decision of making the deduction from their prize money.
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