In the aftermath of the Asian Games 2023, a wave of discontent has swept through Kerala’s sports community as athletes express frustration over the alleged neglect by the state government while athletes from various states bask in the recognition and rewards promised by their respective governments. Keralite athletes claim to have been left in the shadows.
The BJP-led governments in Assam and Gujarat have fulfilled their promises, providing job opportunities to accomplished athletes like Hima Das, Saritaben Laxmanbhai Gayakwad, and M. R. Poovamma. However, the scenario seems starkly different in Kerala, where notable athletes like HS Prannoy, VK Vismaya, PU Chitra, and others feel overlooked and unsupported.
HS Prannoy, who secured a historic bronze in men’s badminton singles at the recently concluded Asian Games 2023, has decided to bid farewell to his home state, citing negligence from the Kerala government. Allegations of lack of support and recognition have surfaced, not only from Prannoy but also from a chorus of other athletes who claim promises of job opportunities have gone unfulfilled.
This discontent is not a recent development. Former Indian football player Muhammad Rafi’s allegations against the Kerala government shed light on a long-standing issue. Rafi claims to have faced dismissal without explanation after being promised a job following Kerala’s Santosh Trophy victory in 2004.
The discontent has earlier manifested in protests, with a group of 24 talented individuals, including national and international achievers, protesting against what they perceive as a breach of promises. The Pinarayi government’s commitment to provide jobs to sports persons from 2018 remains unfulfilled, leading to profound and enduring sentiments of unfairness among the athletes.
Despite a demonstration two years ago involving symbolic acts like head-shaving and launching traditional protests, the government’s promises have yet to materialize. An eight-member committee established in 2018 to oversee the matter has not provided the anticipated resolution, leaving the athletes in limbo.
The ramifications of this discontent extend beyond individual athletes. Concerns are raised that this neglect might prompt more talented individuals to seek opportunities in other states, potentially impacting Kerala’s representation in upcoming national events.
While financial crises may be cited, the athletes argue that acknowledgment and support are equally crucial. The LDF-led government’s alleged indifference to the achievements of these sports people may have lasting consequences, not only on their morale but also on the state’s sporting prowess.
Meanwhile, after the conclusion of the Asian Games 2023, the Haryana government announced substantial cash awards for medal-winning athletes. Gold winners are entitled to Rs. 3 crores, silver winners receive Rs. 1.5 crores, and bronze winners are honored with Rs. 75 lakhs. There’s an additional Rs. 75 lakh for those representing the country. Other states like Odisha, Punjab, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh have also joined the league, declaring financial rewards for their athletes.
The Yogi-led government in Uttar Pradesh promptly rewarded Ajay Kumar Saroj, the silver medalist in men’s 1500m athletics, with Rs. 1.5 crore, showcasing their commitment to recognizing and appreciating sporting achievements.
Tamil Nadu native Rajesh Ramesh, who secured gold in the men’s relay team, received Rs. 50 lakh as a token of appreciation from his home state.
The LDF government in Kerala isn’t giving enough money or a warm welcome to our talented athletes who have made our country proud in Asian Games, 2023. This might lead more athletes to ask for permission to represent other states in the upcoming National Games in Goa. Even though there’s a financial crisis, the Pinarayi-led government hasn’t done much to say congratulations or show support.