Asian Games 2018: Tale of India’s record medal haul and pay disparities

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India has returned from the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang with the richest medal haul ever at the quadrennial multi-sport continental Games. There are 15 gold, 24 silver, and 30 bronze medals for record.

In this battle of the bests from Asia, the Best of the Best survive to reach the podium. They bring the same honour to their nation, their State, the City of their origin or the clubs or employers they represent. An athlete from Delhi, UP, Maharashtra or Haryana will have to attain the same level of excellence to be the Asian Champion. However, when it comes to recognition and rewards for these achievers, there is a distinct discrepancy from State to State within India.

The athletes who train, stay and gel together are eventually separated by their State sports policies. When it comes to rewarding the athletes for their hard work and spectacular performances, disparity leaves some of the elite performers disappointed. A bronze medallist from one State with a benevolent sports policy like Haryana have more worth in monetary terms than the gold won by another. Just because he or she happens to be from a State that will seek no less glory in its athletes achievement than the State of Haryana, but will have no worthwhile consideration to honour the athlete.

Years of hard work, dreams, ambitions, perseverance, blood, sweat, toil – backed by a strong desire and commitment to excel – make an athlete to be the best in the continent; and earn the pride for the nation to see the Tricolour hoisted high at the medal ceremonies. Even when it takes everything to win a gold, the stark reality of disparity in rewards and remunerations leads that perseverance and hard work ending up in an eventual disappointment, also dampening an athlete’s motivation.

Despite India’s richest gold medal haul at Asian Games 2018, the comparison of cash rewards announced by different State Governments for the athletes who contributed to create this record is a shocker. Much to the dismay of people who represented our tricolour on foreign land, the difference is at times up 30 times!!

Also Read: Asian Games 2018: 68 million television audience in India

While Haryana is rewarding its gold medal winners with ₹3 crores each, the neighbouring state Punjab is offering merely ₹26 lakhs for each gold medal. Thus Punjab Government’s total payout for 20 medal winners from the State, including the four gold medallists, comes out to just ₹3 crores. This equals to individual awards of the Haryana counterparts who won gold medals in the Asian Games – Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, young pugilist Amit Panghal and Vinesh Phogat who became the first Indian women to win gold in wrestling in th Asiad.

This is a sheer injustice to someone like Tajinderpal Singh Toor who won gold in shot put by smashing the Games Record and the National Record. The 23-year-old Punjab boy has put up a spectacular show at the time when his ailing father was on his deathbed. Sardar Karam Singh, who has been battling cancer for the past two years, could not survive to see his son holding the shiny metal in hand. The State was yet to honour its champion athlete.

The striking disparity becomes deep as we look further into Swapna Barman’s case. A mere ₹10 Lakhs along with a Government job promise was all to India’s first ever heptathlon champion by the West Bengal Government. When the nation came in chorus to demand higher pay for Barman, the neighboring State Odisha announced a cash reward of ₹3 crores for sprinter Dutee Chand – ₹ 1.5 crores each for her silver medals.

Although Odisha Government awards ₹40 lakhs for gold, ₹25 lakhs for silver, and ₹12.5 lakhs for a bronze medal, it made an exception this time. Dutee Chand is also set to receive multi-million dollar funding from Odisha Government to prepare for Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The four members of the silver medal-winning women’s hockey team are set to get richer by ₹1 crore each while the two members of the bronze-winning men’s hockey squad will get ₹50 lakhs each.

With ₹3 crores for gold, ₹2 crore for silver and 1 crore for bronze, Haryana is set to splurge a whopping ₹47 crores to its Asian Games medal winners who brought home 5 gold, 10 silver, and 12 bronze medals. West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir are on the lowest rungs when it comes to payouts for gold medallists.

Talking about Indian medal demographics, 184 Indian medal winners have accounted for 69 medals and 22 States have produced at least one medal. 45 individual medallists come from 17 different States whereas 24 team events medals producing 139 medallists come from 21 States.

When it comes to cash prize announced for the Asian Games Indian medallists, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Telangana, Jharkhand will be paying out less than ₹50 lakhs in total to their athletes with J&K paying the lowest (₹3 lakhs). Rajasthan, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal will pay between ₹50 Lakhs and ₹1 crores. Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Kerala will pay between ₹1 crore to ₹2 crores. U.P, Karnataka will be between ₹2 crore to ₹3 crores whereas Punjab, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are on the highest slab for announcing cash rewards between ₹ 3 crore to ₹ 4 crores. Delhi is second highest after Haryana for announcing ₹11.5 crores total payout to the medal winners from the Indian capital.

While many State Governments are now considering a major overhaul of their sports policies, Haryana has already set the bar high with its soon to be notified State Sports Policy. While an Olympic gold medallist will get a job with Civil Services/Police Services with 8 years of experience, silver medallist with 4-year experience and a bronze medallist with a post, even a participant is set to be recruited in Group A & B State government jobs.