Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken on Wednesday played down the controversy arising out of the “meagre” cash award given by Hockey India (HI) to the members of the Indian team which won the Asian Champions Trophy in China recently.
Maken, at a hurriedly arranged press conference, clarified that “a small thing has snowballed into a bigger controversy.”
The Minister said that the Government had been giving cash awards to international medal winners under the existing ‘special awards' scheme. “Under the scheme, each player of the hockey team, which won an Asian-level event, will get Rs 1.5 lakh,” Maken said.
“The scheme was already known by the public, so we did not deem it necessary to announce it. In the past three years, we have given Rs. 48.14 crore under the scheme. The players deserve it and we are not giving any (amount in) charity,” he added.
Maken informed that the cash rewards would be disbursed to the players and the coaching staff (who will get 50 per cent of the amount) shortly.
The Minister said HI could not give more than Rs. 25,000 to each player because of its weak financial position. Maken, however, defended the players who did not accept the money. “The players did the right thing as they felt insulted,” he said.
Maken welcomed the announcement of cash rewards by different State governments, but requested everyone to “avoid one-upmanship” in this regard.