New Delhi: Haryana suspended an order on Friday that said sportspersons who work for the state government must hand over at least one-third of their earnings from participating in sports events or scoring endorsements deals. The amount - which it had said would have been used for the development of sports in the state - could have gone up to all of the income if the athlete was granted leave with pay from their job.
- Haryana had said 33% of income to be given to state sports council
- Top athletes from the state express shock, say they weren't consulted
- Haryana chief minister says order put on hold, will be reviewed
"I have asked for the relevant file of the 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 & I assure them of a just consideration of all issues affecting them (sic)," Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar tweeted after the order provoked widespread outrage.
The notification, issued by Principal Secretary (Sports and Youth Department) Ashok Khemka, had said, "One-third of the income earned by the sportsperson from professional sports or commercial endorsements will be deposited with the Haryana State Sports Council. The money shall be used for the development of sports in the State."
"In case the sportsperson is treated on duty with the prior approval of the competent authority while taking part in professional sports or commercial endorsements, the full income earned by the sportsperson on this account will be deposited with the Haryana State Sports Council," said the notification, which is not yet up on the government website.
Haryana produces a significant number of athletes for India each year. Many of them work government jobs. They include star boxers Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar, both of whom are DSPs in the state police, hockey captain Sardar Singh and wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat. Sardar, Geeta and Babita are also employed with the Haryana Police.
Babita Phogat, who won a silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, called the order disheartening. "This notification will hamper an athlete's preparation. How can the government give such an order? We pay taxes over whatever we earn and now this notification to pay one-third," she told news agency PTI.
"Can the government understand how much sacrifice an athlete and his or families have to make to earn a medal for the country? The Haryana government should immediately take this order back and review it," she added.
Some other Haryana athletes, not employed with the state government, also reacted with shock.
"I have not yet seen the notification, I am only coming to know of it through media reports. I can only say that the athletes who compete in Olympic sports are already from very poor families," said double-Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who is with the Railways Sports Promotion Board.
"The government should make policies which encourage athletes. I haven't heard of such a policy anywhere else in the world. The athlete should be competing with a free mind, not with stress like this," he added.
Fellow wrestler and Olympic bronze-medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, also a Railways employee, was harsher in his criticism of the move.
"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," he tweeted.
"Now, athletes will move to other states and these officials will be responsible for this," he added.
Mr Khemka, however, defended his move. "In any state government or central government, a government employee is not allowed to take part in commercial activities. The sportsperson can retain two-third of the income. The other one-third goes to Haryana sports development fund. No one is questioning the income derived from amateur sports. This is in the interest of the players. Because of their visibility, they are allowed to command their own fee," he said.
The bureaucrat had made the headlines during his role as head of the land registration department a few years ago by alleging irregularities in land deals involving Congress President Rahul Gandhi's brother-in-law Robert Vadra.
The Haryana government had earlier courted controversy when it had decided to reduce the prize money for those Commonwealth Games medal winners from the state who were employed with other departments or states.
The felicitation function planned for the prize money distribution on April 26 had to be eventually cancelled indefinitely when the athletes threatened to boycott it.
(With inputs from PTI)