Haryana Government Tries A Nelson Hold On SportspersonsWrestler Babita Pogat is right. Reading the Haryana government circular, it does seem that policies regarding sports are being made by illiterate people. But when the signature on the circular is that of Ashok Khemka, the official who has been shunted out more times than people can remember and who is a no-nonsense bureaucrat, one is surprised. It is good that chief minister ML Khattar has asked for the relevant file and put the circular on hold.
By Sunil Garodia
The circular makes two points. The first point decrees that athletes must deposit one-third of all that they earn from prize money and endorsement fees with the state government. The reason given is that the amount so deposited will be kept in a special fund and used to promote sports in the state. The second point decrees that the salary of athletes taking time off from their government jobs for participating in sporting events or endorsement commitments will not be given to them but deposited in the same special fund.
Who thought of this despicable idea to demand a pound of flesh from sportspersons? Do not athletes, like all other Indian citizens, pay tax on their earnings? Then why were they singled out for this extra contribution? The only reason one can think of is that some bureaucrat thought that since the government bears the cost of training athletes and gives them allowances during their struggling period, they should plough back some of their earnings when they become famous and rich. The answer to this is obvious. If the athletes are trained with public money, it is more than compensated when they bring laurels for the state and the country. Further, if the government spends money, the athletes spend a lifetime for the sport. Then, the athletes also contribute by way of income tax.
Finally, it is the governments duty to promote sports and look after sportsmen. The only thing it can expect in return is that the athletes perform as per their talent and training and bring laurels for the state and the country. It cannot act as a baniya and ask for monetary returns. This shameless circular should not only be completely withdrawn but the thought that went into its drafting must be made public and the officer or officers, including the minister, who gave the sanction must be strongly reprimanded.