Shooter Vijay Kumar is the toast of the nation right now. He deserves all the accolades coming his way after his brilliant silver medal winning performance at the London Olympics. For a country starved of great sporting performances, he is an inspiration. But does he have a right to use his performance as a bargaining chip for career moves?
Obviously not. His statements soon after his feat have been disappointing. Sportsmen are expected to be modest, un-ostentatious and graceful in defeat as well as in victories, particularly so after victories. They, as a rule, are exemplars of good conduct. When there’s arrogance, there’s the confidence to back it up too. In Vijay Kumar’s statements, there has been no hint of modesty. Check out what he said.
“I have done the country proud by winning at major events in 2006, Delhi 2010 and London 2012. I was expecting promotion and decorations. As sportspersons we also have expectations…I had joined the Army after which I took up shooting and now this sport is my focus. I will make my plans for my life accordingly…I want to be able to think about my future. There are many offers coming in,” he told Times Now.
He served a veiled threat to his recruiter too, saying he would stay in the Indian Army only if he was promoted and received a position that matched the offer made by the Sports Ministry. For those not in the know, Army rules allow two promotions for significant sporting achievements. According to the Army Sports Control Board, he could be made a junior commissioned officer and ranked as subedar major.
On the face of it, his grouse seems justified. Vijay says he had never been promoted despite his brilliant performances in several events. Army always overlooked his case. “In 2010 despite my best performance I never got any promotion but I remained focussed and worked hard for the Olympics,” he told.
But is he correct in demanding a promotion and issuing a warning to his recruiter? Out of turn promotions are generally a gesture of appreciation from the authorities as are announcements of financial reward. It is in no way matter of right.
Vijay Kumar wants to be an officer. This is a perfectly valid ambition. But if Army has rules, then these have to be followed. The armed forces everywhere function in a different way from their civilian counterparts and they are not expected to make exceptions for people on demand.
Rules are an essential part of the organisation where discipline is crucial to all its operations. Nobody should be allowed to spoil the sanctity of the institutions. Vijay is certainly not doing a service by putting a gun to Army’s head. If the latter begins a trend by conceding this one, there might be no end to it afterwards.
The avoidable controversy was a creation of the Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken. The over-enthusiastic minister has offered him a job at the Sports Authority of India. Vijay Kumar wants Army to match the position, otherwise he would quit. Maken, in a letter to the Defence Ministry, even requested it to change its rules to bring military promotions for sportspersons on a par with civilian promotion scales. The civilian authorities allow three out of turn promotions for outstanding sportspersons.
Maken could certainly have stopped at making a sumptuous cash award. It does not make sense for him to move into Army’s territory.
However, we can only wish good luck to Vijay Kumar. He should get what he deserves after that terrific performance. But it would be better if he stopped leveraging it for career advancement.