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Indian hockey players to go on hunger strike
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September 26, 2007 15:30 IST
Last Updated: September 26, 2007 16:10 IST

Irked by the "step-motherly treatment" meted out to the Indian hockey team by the central and four state governments, compared to the sops given to cricketers after their triumph in the Twenty20 World Cup, the team members have decided to go on a 'hunger strike'.

National chief coach Joaquim Carvalho strongly objected to the announcement of cash awards by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and the state governments of Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Karnataka to the cricketers while ignoring the victory of his wards in the Asian Continental Championship early this month.

"Why are our hockey players orphaned? Why are our politicians biased towards hockey, the national game?" Carvalho asked.

"However, we are ever grateful to the President of India for her individual letters congratulating the hockey players on their Asia Cup win, without losing a match," he added.

He declared that one coach and four players plan to go on hunger strike before the Karnataka Chief Minister's house following his announcement of Rs five lakh each to members of the cricket team, while "treating the state's hockey players like dust".

Carvalho said, "The Karnataka CM has not till date congratulated his state hockey players for the Asia Cup win.

"Coach Ramesh Parameswaran, manager R K Shetty and four players [Vikram Kanth, V R Rahunath, S V Sunil and Ignace Tirkey, who was recently nominated for the Ekalaywa Award by the Karnataka government] are to go on hunger strike before the Karnataka Chief Minister's house."

He added: "When [IHF president] K P S Gill announced Rs 1000 as bonus for every goal that was scored, many people in authority, including a few politicians, made a hue and cry and ridiculed the (Indian Hockey) federation.

"In fact, there is a competition going on between politicians and state governments in announcing cash prizes galore for cricketers.

"When hockey is the national game and when we have won a big tournament like the Asia Cup, why have these governments and politicians not recognised our triumph and, instead, showing bias?"

Informing that he and the entire hockey team congratulated Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] on the Twenty20 World Cup triumph, he said: "I am not against cricket or cricket players. Every sportsperson needs to be recognised. The cricket players deserve the cash awards, no doubt, but are not the hockey players deserving to be treated in the same manner?"

As for the Punjab and Haryana governments' cash awards to cricketers, Carvalho wanted to know whether these governments will show the same "gratitude" to its hockey players -- Sardar Singh, Baljit Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Shivendra Singh and Rajpal Singh.

On the civil aviation minister's decision to give cash awards and out-of-turn promotion to cricketers in Air India and Indian Airlines, Carvalho wondered whether the minister is aware that these organisations also have hockey players on their pay rolls.

"Coach M P Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Bimal Lakra, Adrian D'Souza, Dilip Tirkey and captain Prabodh Tirkey are all employees of Air India and Indian Airlines. Will the minister extend cash awards and out-of-turn promotions to these deserving hockey players, or he will also orphan them like some of the state governments?" he asked.

Coming down heavily on Maharashtra's chief minister, who announced Rs 10 lakh each for the cricketers, Carvalho said: "The chief minister is perhaps not aware that Adrian D'Souza, Gurbaj Singh, Shivendra Singh and Joaquium hail from the state and reside there.

"When they give Rs 10 lakh for the second World Cup victory, why can't these chief ministers give equal amount to hockey players for their Asia Cup win?"

Carvalho joked that soon there could be ten and five-over World Cups and shorter versions of the game, and the prize-money and cash awards will also increase, but the other sportspersons in the country will continue to suffer like "the poor remaining poor ever".

He also flayed the Sahara Group, which sponsors both the cricket and hockey teams.

"Sahara has announced a house each for the cricketers but hockey players were not even given a match box."

He said former Olympian Mervyn Fernandis and he were offered 'flats' by the Maharashtra government 18 years ago for their outstanding performances in the game.

"Eighteen years have passed, we are yet to get our flats. We have the Maharashtra government's order in our names and we continue to wait hopefully," he said.

As for the Jharkhand government's sops to cricketers, Carvalho wanted to know whether it will also help out the state's hockey players, Bimal Lakra and William Xalxo.

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