As the fond memories of Commonwealth Games (CWG) are beginning to wane, so are the hopes of financial rewards and jobs, says Gururaj Poojary, the CWG silver medalist weightlifter from Karnataka.
For this sergeant at the Indian Air Force (IAF), who is now preparing for the upcoming Asian Games in August, financial security is still elusive.
"Why do the leaders make promises that they cannot keep," asks Gururaj in a tone of disappointment.
At the Commonwealth Games in 2018, weightlifter Gururaja had managed to lift 138kg in his final attempt.
Upon winning, Gururaj was promised a reward of Rs 25 lakhs, along with a job in the 'B' group of officers by the then Karnataka Legislator and Sports Minister, Pramod Madhwaraj. However, four months passed and Gururaj says he is left severely cash-strapped despite making several rounds at the sports and other departments of the state government.
“The Haryana state government awarded their winner over Rs. 1 crore. Similarly, all athletes in the contingent, who hailed from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, too, received their share of dues from their respective state. Although I was the only winner from Karnataka, I have been running from pillar to post, but to no avail,” Gururaj says.
Hailing from a financially-weak family in Kundapur, Gururaj’s father, Mahabala Poojary, is a goods-truck driver. Besides Gururaj and another younger brother, his four other elders brothers have not completed their education.
“I owe a major portion of my success to my parents, especially my brothers, who gave up their education and supported me. It was my determination to give them better lives that drove me to excel in sports,” he says.
Speaking to TNM, former MLA Pramod Madhwaraj admitted the folly over misleading public assurance of granting Rs. 25 lakh to the athlete at the onset of the election.
“After making the announcement, I was told that as per the guideline, only Rs. 15 lakhs can be granted to the sportsperson. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, however, can make an exception in this case, if he wishes. As far as the job is concerned, if CM’s new budget permits the same, I will study it, and if there is a provision, the state government may issue an appointment letter to Gururaj,” he says.
Madhwaraj added that a cheque for Rs 15 lakh has been made and it will be issued to Gururaj in two to three days. “I have spoken to the Director of Sports; it will be done soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gururaj, who is stationed in Chandigarh, says that although his stint with the Air Force is helping him prepare for the Asian Games, the excitement is relatively less.
“While it is good to be a part of the national contingent, a sportsperson needs encouragement and financial support; else, it may discourage others from taking part in such events in future,” he says.
On July 18, Gururaj says he will make another round to Udupi to seek the release of the amount.
Story by www.storyinfinity.com (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP).