A group of 54 medallists from Kerala have been protesting in front of the Secretariat since last week, demanding the government jobs they deserve under the sports quota.

Sportspersons protesting in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding the promised government jobs. Some are wearing medals, holding placards and raising slogans.
news Employment Thursday, December 16, 2021 - 15:55

Lima Mohanlal first started playing volleyball when she was a Class 6 student. “I played in the national team the very year I started playing,” said Lima, a resident of Cherai in Kerala’s Ernakulam district. Her team had even won a bronze medal in the National Volleyball Championship 2013, which made her eligible for a government job under the sports quota. She made it to the list of government postings in 2014, and has since been waiting for an appointment order. In 2019, due to an injury, Lima had to quit playing volleyball, and by then, the hope of getting a government job, too, started fading. Today, Lima cleans prawns and sells them in the market, which fetches her anywhere between Rs 32 and 200, depending on the number of prawns she cleans. She is also the sole breadwinner of her family, which includes her husband who has liver disease, their four-year-old daughter, her father who is ill and her mother who is no longer employed.

For the past week, Lima has been sitting along with a group of 54 sportspersons in front of the Kerala Secretariat, demanding government jobs that they deserve. Some of the male sportspersons tonsured their heads and others even crawled on their knees as a mark of protest. In February 2021, too, these former athletes had protested for the promised jobs. Since no favourable action followed, the sportspersons are back on the street once again, to fight for the promised government jobs.

These are the former athletes who have brought laurels to the state by fetching gold, silver and bronze medals in various national games, making them eligible for government jobs under the sports quota. Many of the protesting athletes made it to the government list at various time periods between 2010 and 2014. However, they have not received an appointment order yet.

A total of 50 government posts are reserved for sportspersons in Kerala every year. The candidate should have won any of the first three positions in national events to be eligible to apply for these posts.

In February 2020, for the first time, 195 sportspersons were given government postings under the sports quota. These appointments, however, were made from the 2010-14 rank list. Apart from the 195 sportspersons, Indian Hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, too, was appointed based on the 2010-2014 list. So, over a five-year period between 2010 and 2014, 196 athletes got appointments, while 54 of the 250 posts have not been filled. The 54 sportspersons, whose names are on the list, are still waiting for a job

“Of the 195 posts, 15 posts have been reported as not joined. This makes the total openings 69. Hence there won’t be any dearth of posts to accommodate those who have been left out,” alleged Eldho Sunny, a protesting footballer.

“We were on the same list and should have been in the service nearly two years ago. Even now, we have not been offered jobs. Protesting was the only option for us,” said Jikko James, another footballer. Both Eldho and Jikko were part of the Kerala team who came second in the 2013 and 2014 national championships.

A few sportspersons tonsure in protest 

“The government claims that the openings in the sports quota between 2010 and 2014 have been filled. But, this is not true. Fifty-four persons have still been left out,” Pramod, a former sportsperson, said. Retired from the army service, Pramod has been coordinating the protest.

Mohammed Hanish, Secretary of the Sports Department, refused to comment on the issue as Kerala Sports Minister V Adburahiman has invited the protesting sportspersons for a talk on Thursday, December 16. However, after waiting for the Minister for nearly two hours, he reportedly rescheduled the meeting for a later date. And so, the mdallists have decided to continue their protests. 

The wait becomes a matter of survival

The delay in government appointments has had a grave impact on the livelihoods of these sportspersons, with many even giving up on their dreams to continue the sport. They have been forced to take up daily wage and low-paying jobs for survival.

Manju Abraham, a handball player who had won a bronze medal in 2013, has been working as a salesperson in a textile shop in Ernakulam for the past two years. A native of Kottayam, she earns a monthly salary of Rs 9,000. “I love the sport. But, I also entered the sports sector with the expectation of getting a job, and that hope was high after winning the medal. I never thought I would be forced to take up another job,” said Manju. “I have hopes that this protest will yield results.”

Manju, while talking to TNM, was sitting next to Lima Mohanlal at the Kerala Secretariat. She travelled from her hometown in Ernakulam to Thiruvananthapuram to make her voice heard. “As a player, I was never at home, as I would either be attending functions or taking part in tournaments. Everyone believed that being a player would make my future secure and that I would be a support for my father, who had been struggling since his childhood. Now that I still do not have a formal job, people around me have become pessimistic,” Lima said.

Volleyball medallist Lima Mohanlal at the protest site

Salini Thomas, an athlete and a native of Idukki, had won a bronze medal in 400 meters in 2009 and a silver medal in 2011. Her name was on the December 2018 list, but she never got the appointment order to date.

“I quit my temporary job at a school, hoping I would get the job soon. But, nothing happened. I didn’t even look for another job thinking the appointment would happen soon," she said.

Another athlete, Anushree Manju, has been working as a typist at a private hospital in Idukki’s Thodupuzha for the past two years. She had won a bronze medal in handball in 2013. "Being into sports, winning a medal and not getting a job is not something we can easily cope with," said Anushree.

For many of these protesters, taking part in the protest means a loss of daily wage, too. “But that is fine. After all, we are not here for something that we don’t deserve right?” says Lima.