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Hockey champ waits for Government to keep its promise

Karthik Subramanian

He has still not received the complimentary railway pass promised by the Government



WAITING IN VAIN: Leslie Fernandes, member of hockey World Cup winning team, waits for his complimentary railway pass. — Photo: Karthik Subramanian

CHENNAI: Leslie Fernandes celebrated his time on cloud nine 31 years back. That was when he was a member of the hockey World Cup winning team.

With Wednesday, 31 years had gone by since the celebrated March 1975 victory over archrivals Pakistan. India had then beat Pakistan 2-1 in the final at Kuala Lumpur.

But, far from feeling the sense of pride that comes with remembering the sweet taste of victory, the 59-year-old is disgruntled.

A matter of pride

In 1996, the Indian Government had announced that all sportsmen of the country who won medals in the 21 Olympic disciplines in international events would be given complimentary rail passes. But, five players from the hockey team have so far not got the passes.

Leslie works for the Southern Railway and hence holds a railway pass. But, he says holding the complimentary pass promised for medal winners was a matter of pride.

"It is the Government's way of honouring those who have made the country proud in the sports arena. But, officials have somehow overlooked the World Cup win in 1975."

Leslie and the four others — Brig. H.S.F.Chimini of Noida, Ashok Diwan of Delhi, P.E. Kalaiah of Mysore and Omkar Singh of Mumbai — were members of the 16-member squad that won the top medal.

The other four have received the passes because they were also part of the 1972 bronze medal winning team in the Olympics.

Leslie's appeal has not found any takers.

He has met several Union Ministers, government secretaries and politicians in the last decade to give petitions on behalf of the five champions. But, he only received empty promises.

The Anglo-Indian Suburban Front in Chennai has now taken up the case. The Front's president, Augustine Roy Rozario, says his organisation has already written to Mani Shankar Aiyar, Union Minister for Panchayats, Youth Affairs and Sports.

Leslie wonders why hockey players continue to receive the stick from the authorities.

"It is still the national sport. I wonder if authorities will ignore our cricket champions," he says.

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