news Thursday, April 09, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute| April 5, 2015| 09.30 am IST "All I want is a job," says 34 year-old Santhi Soundarajan, the first Tamil Nadu woman to win a medal at the Asian Games. Almost ten years after she was stripped off her silver medal in the 800 m race at the Asian Games held in Doha after failing a sex test , Santhi has been desperately trying to secure herself a permanent government sports job.  "Right now, I work as a contract employee at the Sports Authority of India in Mayiladuthurai", she said. Earning a monthly income of Rs. 23,000, she has been financially supporting her parents who still live in her native village.  “Only four months remain for my contract to get over,” she said expressing her fear that it may not be renewed. All I want is a job, she says.  When she wrote to the Sports Ministry for a permanent sports job, she received a clear-cut response from them back in New Delhi.  Written by the Ministry of Youth affairs and sports, it was a response to her request for the allocation of prize money and a permanent job under the sports quota.  “…it is informed that since the medal has not been restored to you, the Ministry cannot give cash Award for the medal,” it said. “This Ministry does not provide jobs or recommend particular spokespersons for jobs in Central/State Government offices” She even won a silver medal at the 2005 Asian Athletics Champions shops held in South Korea.  However, it was in 2006, when she was chosen to represent India at the Asian Games that things turned around for Santhi.  Back then , the silver medal was a huge victory for someone like Soundarajan who came from an impoverished background to win the way she did.  Six years down the line, the media reported on Santhi’s condition - she worked as a daily labourer in a brick kiln earning Rs. 200 for the the eight hours of work that she did. The government then funded her to study a coaching training programme at the National Institute of Sports in Bangalore.  Now, Santhi is scared that once her job contract gets over, she will have to go back to her life of penury. "I did not get the kind of support Caster Semenya did", says Santhi.  Caster Semenya is a South African athletics world champion and a 800 m gold winner at the 2009 Berlin World Championship who was subjected to gender tests and banned for eleven months . However, the athlete soon returned after her country’s support. She even went on to represent her country at the 2012 London Olympics.  With campaigns backing Semenya, the International Association of Athletics Federation not only cleared her name, they even agreed to let her keep her 800 metre world title , the medal and the prize money - a story that is in complete contrast to that of Santhi's. In 2007, Santhi was given a 10 lakh cash prize along wit a television set by then Chief minister Karunanidhi when her medal was stripped. Working as a temporary athletics coach in TN, she however, quit her job in 2010, protesting that the state had not made it permanent.  

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