Rs 6 crore or Rs 25 lakh for Olympics gold? Home state key to cash prize

Haryana, Bajrang’s home state, has announced cash awards for medallists ranging from Rs 6 crore (gold) to Rs 2.5 crore (bronze) while Das’s West Bengal will award amounts from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

AMONG THE best in the world, wrestler Bajrang Punia and archer Atanu Das are two of the brightest medal prospects for India at the Tokyo Olympics starting later this month. And yet, if Bajrang clinches a gold, he will pocket Rs 6 crore as cash award from his state while Das will have to be satisfied with just Rs 25 lakh.

Reason: The monetary value of an Olympics medal in India depends on where the medallist hails from.

Haryana, Bajrang’s home state, has announced cash awards for medallists ranging from Rs 6 crore (gold) to Rs 2.5 crore (bronze) while Das’s West Bengal will award amounts from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. UP, Odisha and the Chandigarh administration, too, are offering Rs 6 crore for gold followed by Karnataka and Gujarat with Rs 5 crore.

The state awards are separate from the Rs 75 lakh (gold), Rs 50 lakh (silver) and Rs 30 lakh (bronze) that the Central Government offers to Olympics medallists.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Manoj Tiwary, former cricketer and West Bengal’s new Minister of State for Affairs of Sports and Youth, said: “As per the 2018 order of the West Bengal government, for the Olympic Games, prize money for a gold medallist is Rs 25 lakh. For a silver medallist, prize money announced was Rs 15 lakh, while a bronze medallist gets Rs 10 lakh. From West Bengal, three sportspersons are going to the Olympics this year, and we will do what needs to be done for their encouragement.”

Former Olympian and Haryana’s Sports Minister Sandeep Singh says the state wants to show its support to athletes. “We want to convey to the players that the Haryana government is with them in their journey to the Olympics and a medal. We are glad that other states are matching or following our cash award policy…whatever is happening, is happening for the good of the players,” Singh said.

Two-time Asian Games gold medallist and former athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar is clear that the amount offered by West Bengal is “too less”.

“While nothing can match a player’s dedication and effort to win an Olympic medal, the amount of Rs 25 lakh to be given to an Olympic gold medallist from the state is too less. Training needs and competition levels have grown in the last 2-3 decades and matching other states in terms of prize money will motivate players and give them the assurance of financial security,” Sikdar said.

Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, boxer Akhil Kumar, sees Haryana as a pioneer in financial encouragement to sportspersons. “Haryana has set an example for other states,” he said. Haryana has 31 athletes, the most from any state, in the 120-member Indian contingent for Tokyo.

UP Sports Minister Upendra Tiwari believes such incentives motivate youth. “Our vision is to reward deserving players and see Uttar Pradesh, which is the biggest state in terms of population, lead in the number of Olympics medals. That’s why we have made the provision for cash awards,” he said.

UP is sending eight athletes to Tokyo, on par with Maharashtra. “We have a policy whereby an athlete who wins gold will be eligible for a cash prize of Rs 1 crore, silver for Rs 75 lakh and bronze for Rs 50 lakh,” Maharashtra Sports Commissioner Om Prakash Bakoria said.

(With Shamik Chakrabarty)

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