Dubai: An Indian businessman in Dubai has announced a total of Rs7.5 million (Dh410,305) as a cash prize to the Indian sports stars who won medals at the Rio Olympics.
A UAE resident for four decades, Mukkattu Sebastian, who runs the Autobahn Car Rental network, announced Rs5 million to badminton star P.V. Sindhu who grabbed a silver medal and became the first Indian woman to win that honour at an Olympic game on Friday.
He also announced Rs2.5 million for Sakshi Malik, who won a bronze in wrestling, the first medal for India at the Rio Games 2016.
“These two girls saved the face of India at Rio. I am so proud of them and wanted to honour them with a cash award,” Sebastian told Gulf News on Saturday.
“Everybody is after cricketers in India. Nobody minds other sports stars. After their glorious win, I strongly felt I needed to honour them. They cannot sustain [themselves] just with medals. So, I am giving what I can. I am not a very rich person. But I want to do whatever I can,” said Sebastian, who also owns Mukkadan Plantations in Kerala and Autobahn Car Rentals in Bengaluru.
Sebastian said he had kept Rs10 million as the cash prize for gold medallists and had hoped Sindhu would win gold.
He said he was not disappointed that Sindhu got a silver because hers was a narrow defeat to world champion Spain’s Carolina Marin. He also admire Malik for “fighting like a tigress” to get India’s first medal at this Olympics.
Hailing from Kottayam district in Kerala, Sebastian said he plans to host a function in Kochi to honour the Olympic medallists who made a country of 1.25 billion people proud.
“I have already written to the Olympic committee of India to help coordinate this and fix a date for the function. I have also informed the state sports authority in Kerala about the plan.”
He said he would also request the Olympic committee to recommend to the finance minister a tax exemption for the prize money. “Otherwise, they will have to pay 30 per cent of the prize money as tax,” Sebastian pointed out.
He said he was ready to offer similar cash awards to any Indian who wins a medal at Rio.
“If anybody wins a gold medal for India, I would like to give one crore rupees (Rs10 million). If it is silver, I will give Rs5 million and for bronze Rs2.5 million,” said Sebastian, adding that he is also willing to support sporting champions who are financially backward.
To motivate budding sports talents in the state, he said, all school students who took part in the Kerala State Sports and Games event last time will be invited to attend the honouring ceremony for the Olympic winners.
Other Indian expats in the UAE have also joined their compatriots back home in celebrating the victory of the two young women who pulled the nation out of the Games gloom. Many took to social media to congratulate the stars and express their happiness and pride.