Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, on Thursday, announced a cash reward of Rs 1.30 crore for 10 members of the Indian women's cricket, who are employed with the Indian Railways. Suresh Prabhu also announced out of turn promotions for all members of the team and elevation for captain Mithali Raj and batter Harmanpreet Kaur to gazetted officer rank. "While it is a happy day for all Indians, it is really a matter of great pride for the Railways specially. Railways have 10 out of the 15 world class cricketers. The captain, vice-captain, wicket-keeper, the highest-scorer are all our employees," said Prabhu at a felicitation function for the women cricketers at the Rail Bhavan on Thursday.
Prabhu further said that no one in the country ever imagined the level of success achieved by the women's team and it was their commitment and dedication that has brought them so far.
"I was asking Diana Eduljee (former India Captain) about the time she started playing, she told me that she started in 1971. That means she started 46 years ago. At that time, I am sure she never would have imagined that one day Indian women will go and give such tough competition at the World Cup, doing so well. I don't think anyone would have imagined this," said Prabhu.
THe MoS for Railways Rajen Gohain and chairman Railway Board AK Mital were also present on this occasion. Prabhu said it was a matter of great pride for the railway family that from Diana to Mithali, "all of them have played for the Railways."
Prabhu said that the Railways would continue to support the women's team and ensure that the working conditions are such that they don't come in the way of their practise, training or matches.
"In our men's cricket team, there is no one from railways, but our women have created their own team. It's like reserving the entire train itself," said Prabhu amidst applause.
Captain Mithali Raj, while speaking to the media said that India should have a Indian Premier League for women so that not only Indian cricketers but even domestic players get exposure.
Praising the railways for their support, Raj said that it was the only institution that supported women cricketers. "Railway is the only institution that gives jobs to women cricketers and 90-95 per cent women cricketers in the country work with the Railways.
"Recently, they (railways) have come up with a scheme of excellence where we get 330 days off to work on our game and that has really helped us to improve our individual games and given us more opportunities to work as a team," the cricketer said.
Mithali was also asked to react to the recent criticism of the Railways with regards to catering, which she sidestepped.
"I started playing cricket when there were no facilities or privileges, so travelling by train itself was a privilege for me. Even now, I enjoy travelling by train more than flights," said Mithali when asked to describe her own experience, while travelling on Indian Railways in the light of the recent criticisms.
Presently, Indian Railways have 20 Padmashree awardees, four Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardees, 158 Arjuna awardees, 9 Dhyanchand awardees, 7 Dronacharya awardees and 2 Rashtriya Khel Protsahan puraskar in its kitty.