National champion Sreeja denied prize money; Telangana government must ensure justice

Hyderabad’s pride, table tennis player Sreeja Akula who became the first table tennis player from Hyderabad to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, is now running from pillar to post to get prize money. She had won in the senior national championship held in Shillong in April this year. It is learnt that the host organisation in Meghalaya owes her Rs 2 lakh.

The question: Is this the way to treat our international champions? What sort of signal are we sending to our youth who excel in sports? A few days ago there was the case of players being served food in the toilets and now here is a case of a champion not being given the prize money.

This amount is rightfully due to her and one hopes that the government of Telangana will step in and use its good offices and influence to see that justice is done to a promising young girl from Hyderabad. Her father Pravin Akula told that for every international tournament that Sreeja takes part in, he had to spend more than 2 lakh to meet her expenses. So this amount, if released, will be of great help to her career.

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“The funny thing is that the other players who won medals at the same event, have been given their prize money. It is only my daughter whose prize is being withheld even though she won the gold medal in singles as well as women’s doubles. Even Sreeja’s doubles partner has got the prize money. The two of them had won the women’s doubles together. The other girl Aikhya Mukherjee was given the due amount but Sreeja did not receive it,” said Pravin.

“I have made several phone calls and sent many emails but I have not got an assurance that the prize will be given to her. They are giving me different reasons. Once they said that the President of the sports body has resigned and there is no one to sign the cheque. Should they not have a plan B to take care of such situations? Why should a player suffer because someone has resigned or died? That too, India’s top ranked national champion who has brought home international medals for the country,” lamented Pravin Akula.

Sreeja has been in tremendous form for the past one year. She teamed up with India’s best male player Sharath Kamal to win the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in August this year. It was for the first time in history that an Indian pair had accomplished this feat. But now this is the treatment that she is having to face in the country.

Sreeja’s case is not the first instance wherein a champion has been denied his or her rights. But this time one hopes that the state government of Telangana will take a hand in this and see to it that the Hyderabad girl gets her due.

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