Olympics-bound Seema Punia slams sports ministry for delaying release of funds
Just hours after booking a berth at the Olympics, Seema Punia accused the sports ministry of delaying the release of her funds as she trained abroad for several major events during the course of her career.
Seema Punia, the Asian Games gold medal winning discus thrower gold medal winner on Saturday qualified for the Rio Olympics with a 62.62-metre effort at the Pat Young's Throwers Classic 2016 at Salinas (California) in the United States. She won gold in the event and in the process pipped 2008 Olympic discus throw champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton of United States of America.
This will be Punia's third appearance at the Olympics after representing India in Athens and London in 2004 and 2012 respectively. She has also enjoyed success in Commonwealth Games having won a silver at the 2006 Melbourne event and a bronze in Delhi in 2010.
But Punia's comments, hours after qualifying for the Rio Olympics indicates her achievements hold little weight as far as the Sports Ministry is concerned. On Sunday, Punia accused the sports ministry of delaying the release of her funds as she went abroad to prepare for the Rio Olympic games.
“I asked the ministry for help in mid-2015. Had the ministry released the funds then, I would have qualified last year itself,” Punia told Hindustan Times.
Punia had presented her plans for the Rio Olympics to the sports ministry and Sports Authority of India (SAI), soon after winning the gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014. The ministry then included her in Target Olympics Podium Scheme. However, the ministry initially released only 19 lakh out of the 75 lakh allocated for her preparations, that too after eight months of wait.
Punia disclosed that she was at the receiving end of red-tapism in sports ministry and received the same reply every time she made a claim for the funds to the authorities – her documents were incomplete and more paperwork would be needed. The 32-year old had to seek help from a SAI official to pay her foreign coach, who trained her in the United States.
This wasn't the only time Punia faced problems of receiving funds from the Sports ministry. While training for the 2014 Asian Games, the ministry only approved $90.52 in food costs for two people for a period of 85 days. This means, she won two medals for the country on a diet of just half a dollar, amounting to Rs 35 a day.
“I am frustrated and disgusted by the way sports ministry officials treat players,” Punia told Hindustan Times.
The sports ministry also refused to clear Punia's medical bills that she incurred during her hospitalization in the United States, claiming that sportsperson should take a medical insurance before going abroad for training.
The ministry asked Punia to cough up Rs 1.83 lakh to settle the previous bill, before releasing the funds for the Target Olympics Podium Scheme. But despite doing the needful, Punia had to wait five months to get the funds, leaving her angered at the ruckus which the players had to go through thanks to the slack state of affairs of the sports ministry.
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