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Tough dribble to job goal for hockey’s star duo

Making Jharkhand proud? Forget returns.

Nine months have lapsed since Hockey Junior World Cup stars Bigan Soy and Nilima Minz were promised railway jobs, but the Ranchi division under South Eastern Railway (SER) is reneging on the deal, citing no vacancies.

Goalie Bigan and defender Nilima became hockey sensations after India clinched the historic World Cup bronze in Mönchengladbach, Germany, last August. The very next month, Ranchi railway bosses announced sports quota benefits for the duo and forwarded the proposal to the SER headquarters in Calcutta.

The job jeopardy continues ever since, fuelling speculation about Jharkhand being discriminated against.

A senior Hockey Jharkhand official hinted at partiality. “There are some people in Calcutta who have always been against players from Jharkhand. Since January this year, three players from Odisha, UP and Haryana have been recruited in Ranchi division, while our local girls are being cold-shouldered,” he said.

According to Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) rules, players representing World Cup, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are given officer rank jobs in Group C category with a grade pay of Rs 2,400-2,800. The rules further say that selected players must be graduates. However, if any deserving player is an undergraduate, then four years’ time is given from the date of joining to complete studies.

Neither Bigan nor Nilima are graduates, but they were found deserving enough to be recommended for officer posts after a special selection conducted by SER in Calcutta on October 8, 2013.

Former India captain and now national selector Savitry Purty and women’s hockey star Subhadra Pradhan were called for the screening. On October 26, then DRM (Ranchi) Gajanan Mallya sent a recommendation to SER general manager G.S. Aggarwal to accommodate both players.

“After DRM Mallya left, things hit a dead end. The file was sent to RSPB in January for formal approval. A letter from the board on March 16 directed the Ranchi division to offer jobs in Rs 2,400 grade pay. Now, the division says it has no vacancy,” said a well-placed source in Hockey Jharkhand.

An official reiterated the step-motherly treatment meted out to state players. “It is Bigan’s and Nilima’s turn to face harsh reality. All other World Cup players have been given jobs by their respective states,” the official said.

Assistant sports officer of SER Sandeep Chakraborty said: “We tried from our end and the matter isn’t completely closed yet. But how long will it take to give them jobs is something we are unable to say,” he said over phone from Calcutta.

He added: “We don’t have vacancies in Rs 2,400 grade pay. Now, the board is asking us to hire them in the Rs 1,900 grade pay or wait for a year.”

Bigan, in New Delhi for training, could not be reached for her comments. On an earlier occasion, she had said she was doing a personality development course to get the job. Nilima, on the other hand, is abroad playing for Team India.