New Delhi: Athletes employed with the Indian Railways will have a brighter chance at achieving officer rank after union minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday approved a new promotion policy which would make them eligible for elevation even if they are not Olympic medal-winners.
As per the new policy, any athlete, who has made two Olympic appearances and has won medals at either the Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games or the World Championships, will be promoted to officer rank. Even Padma Shri awardees and winners of any of the national sports awards will be eligible for elevation.
"In order to give due recognition to the effort put in by the sportspersons, who have made two appearances in Olympics, won a medal in Asian Games/Commonwealth Games, it has now been decided to award them with a promotion to the officer rank," a Ministry release stated.
"Further Railway sportsperson who are winners of any of the awards like Arjuna/Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award would also be entitled to the said promotion," it added.
The Railways did not have a clear policy for promotions for its sports employees till the 2016 Rio Olympics. After the Rio Games, the body decided to consider promotions for only the medal-winners and fourth-place finishers at the Olympics.
However, Goyal, in the presence of Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore at a felicitation function, promised a liberalised promotion policy a few weeks ago.
The Railways, which has around 3,000 active athletes on its payrolls, has now also decided to consider promotion of the coaches employed with it if their wards deliver at least three medals at the Olympic Games/World Cup/World Championship/Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.
Of the three, at least one medal should be in an Olympics.
"This liberalised promotion policy will act as an incentive to the country's elite sportspersons/coaches and reaffirms Railways commitment to the promotion of sports in the country," the statement from the Ministry read.
The new policy would be music to the ears of athletes like two-time Commonwealth Games medal winner Manoj Kumar, who is also a two-time Olympian.
He has been quite vocal about his displeasure at denial of promotion despite an accomplished career. A Class III employee till now, Manoj had been promised promotion after his 2010 CWG gold medal but it didn't come through due to the absence of a clear policy. Manoj is also a multiple-time Asian medallist.
"There was no specific provision, everything was being dealt on a case to case basis till now. So somebody like Mithali Raj, who is a Padma Shri, had to wait till India finished World Cup runners-up last year for a promotion. With this policy, things will be streamlined," Railways Sports Promotion Board Secretary Rekha Yadav told PTI.
In the past, Railways athletes such as 2008 Olympic bronze-medallist boxer Vijender Singh and Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Akhil Kumar have left the ranks on being denied promotion after being offered higher designations in the Haryana Police.