Haryana Principal Secretary (Sports and Youth Department), Ashok Khemka, had issued a notification from his department asking all the professional athletes from Haryana to share one-third of their earnings from sports or commercial endorsements with the state government. The notification read, “One-third of the income earned by the sportsperson from professional sports or commercial endorsements will be deposited with the Haryana State Sports Council. The money shall be used for the development of sports in the State.” Irrespective of the fact that the money received from the athletes would have been used to develop sports infrastructure in Haryana. This notification issued by the Sports and Youth Department had come under widespread criticism from athletes from across the nation. Ashok Khemka is a famous bureaucrat. He caught the nation’s interest with his department exposing irregularities in land dealings involving Robert Vadra a couple of years ago. Khemka was the head of the land registration department which had brought the issue in limelight. However, the decision by Ashok Khemka regarding athletes’ fees did not go down well with the athletes and public alike. It drew sharp criticism from star boxers like Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar and wrestlers like Sushil Kumar, Geeta and Babita Phogat.
Haryana has witnessed rise of various athletes in the recent years. Wrestling, boxing and hockey players from Haryana have brought the country many laurels and medals in international competitions. Two-time Olympic medal winning wrestler, Sushil Kumar, also expressed his displeasure at this move by the Haryana Sports and Youth department head Ashok Khemka, stating that,”I have not yet seen the notification. I am only coming to know of it through media reports. I can only say that the athletes who compete in Olympic sports are already from very poor families.” Babita Phogat expressed her feelings by stating that “This notification will hamper an athlete’s preparation. How can the government give such an order? We pay taxes over whatever we earn and now this notification to pay one-third (sic).”
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar realised the need to pacify the hardworking athletes who had proved to be indispensable to the state in the past. CM Khattar decided to take to Twitter to clarify that the notification had been issued by the bureaucrat Ashok Khemka and not by him directly. CM Khattar tweeted, “I have asked for the relevant file of Sports Department to be shown to me & the notification dated April 30th to be put on hold till further orders.” He further added,” We are proud of the immense contribution by our sportsperson & I assure them of a just consideration of all issues affecting them (sic).” CM Khattar’s tweet was important as it clarified that the Haryana government led by BJP had not issued the notification which had drawn so much flak from athletes and public in India. CM Khattar put on hold the notification and has promised to look into this matter as soon as possible.
The decision by CM Khattar is praiseworthy considering all the sports in India barring cricket need a lot of help from government and bureaucracy. Ashok Khemka’s stance could have led to a demoralising effect on the hardworking sports-persons from the state. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore as the Central Minister for Youth Affairs is doing a lot for the promotion of other sports in India. Corporates too have started pitching in to help improve the situation of sports and sports-persons in the country but still a lot is needed. Such whimsical decisions taken by bureaucrats could derail the progress made by the efforts of the government. It also breaks the trust which sports-persons have for government machinery. CM Khattar has taken the right decision by putting the notification on hold and he should go ahead to scrap the decision altogether in the coming days. This incident should also be taken as an example by the other state governments for future references as well, in order to give the much needed boost to sports and sports-persons from their home states.