Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and other athletes criticise Haryana government's decision to reduce cash prize for medal winners

Indian wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have criticised the Haryana government for its decision to reduce the cash prizes for athletes, who win medals at international tournaments. The wrestlers also got support from former wrestler and Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra.

On Thursday, Punia took to Twitter and said while the central government is coming up with encouraging schemes like Khelo India, TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme), the Haryana government is trying means to bring athletes from the state to their knees with their policies. He went on to add the state government shouldn't try to take athletes for granted and not to treat them like fools.

In his tweets, he tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and sports minister of Haryana Anil Vij.

Both Punia and Vinesh have gone on record and on social media to condemn the state government's decision. On Wednesday, Vinesh vented on Twitter, asking the state government to take back all the prize money awarded to her because athletes are being unnecessarily dragged into politics games and are being insulted. She said the Haryana government are bringing politics into sports and are destroying the careers' of athletes.

In an interview with ANI, Asian Games gold medallist wrestler Vinesh said Haryana sports policy is not up to the mark as no athlete has benefitted from it in the last four-five years. "Earlier the state's sports policy was the best in the world but in last 4-5 years, no athlete has benefited, be it a team game or individual game. Anil Vij sir calls it the best policy, it definitely isn't.

"Those who have made it (policy), I don't think they have had ever represented their state. While we represent India, we are Olympic level athletes. How can you insult us like this?" she said. "Only an athlete knows after how many hardships a medal is worn around the neck and one gets to hold the national flag. For one medal they ask for so much paperwork and say only then they will consider us valid. I got the Asian Games medal and the whole world knows it. Still, they ask for a certificate to prove it. This shouldn't happen with an athlete. Support us right from junior level, everybody needs support in terms of money. Athletes cannot be made without money," Phogat said.

Reflecting on the job from the state government, Phogat said she has not heard from anyone getting a job from Haryana government.

"In the past five years, I haven't heard from anyone getting a job from Haryana. I went in Railways only after waiting for two years in a hope that Haryana will provide. Then I joined Railways considering if my wrestling career ends I need security," she said.

Yogeshwar also condemned the policy, lending his support to Vinesh, Bajrang and other athletes. He requested the government to come out with a proper reason and ensure they provide all the help to increase athletes' motivation.

Neeraj had also tweeted asking the Haryana government to make sure athletes from the state get all the help they can so that they can concentrate on winning more medals.

In response to the criticism, Vij said, "We have not insulted any sportsmen in the state. In fact, we give them the highest winning amount in India. We give them the best job opportunities."

With inputs from ANI

Updated Date: Jun 27, 2019 17:21:48 IST