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The long list of national award recommendations require explanation

The long list of national award recommendations require explanation

Aditya Halder

Published: 21 Aug 2020 5:33 AM GMT

A day after national sports awards committee announced its list of recommendation for the prestigious awards like Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award for the athletes, many were left curious.

A whopping 29 sportspersons were recommended for the Arjuna while a strong five athletes were also suggested for country’s highest sporting honour Khel Ratna in a non-Olympic year.

In the past, such a long list was only recommended for the awards in a year when major tournaments Asian Games and Commonwealth Games took place, leaving the committee with little choice to ignore the multiple gold medallists in the race.

For instance, in 2018, when the Asiad & CWG took place, 20 athletes were recommended for Arjuna. At the same time, cricketer Virat Kohli and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu were conferred with Khel Ratna. Comparing that with the year 2017, a non-Olympic year, 16 athletes were conferred with Arjuna while two received the Khel Ratna.

A glance at the guidelines for the national awards also suggests that the committee has over-exceeded the prescribed limit already.

“Normally not more than 15 awards could be given in any calendar year. However keeping in view the performance of Indian sportspersons in the Commonwealth, Asian Games and Olympic Games during a particular year… Arjuna Awards exceeding 15 in number may be allowed with proper justification and approval of Minister-in-charge for Youth Affairs and Sports,” read MYAS guidelines.

One can still argue that each of the names that have been listed for 2020 national awards are champions in their own right and deserve the recognition, hence the long list. Also, the long list could mean everyone will be happy.

Arpinder Singh (Source: TOI) Arpinder Singh (Source: TOI)

However, when triple jumper Arpinder Singh tells you that despite winning the 2018 Asian Games gold medal and being the first Indian to win a medal for Asia at the IAAF Continental Cup he was ignored by the committee for Arjuna, one wonders did it really serve the purpose?

“I am a bit surprised at being ignored for the Arjuna Award," Arpinder said during a phone conversation. "I won the Asian Games gold medal in 2018. I am also the first and only Indian to win a medal in the Continental Cup. I don't know what else I need to do to prove myself.”

Interestingly, the triple jump national record holder is not the only track and field star who is left unhappy with the decision.

Back in May, Athletics Federation of India nominated four athletes — namely Arpinder, 100m runner Dutee Chand, middle-distance runners Manjit Singh and PU Chithra — for the Arjuna award. Also, 2021 Olympic-bound and medal hopeful Neeraj Chopra was nominated for the Khel Ratna.

Neeraj Chopra (Image: Twiiter) Neeraj Chopra (Image: Twiiter)

However, barring sprint star Dutee, the committee felt that none of the track and field stars are eligible to win any of the national honours this year.

In the past, normally two athletes from each gender were recommended for the awards for each discipline. And the guidelines seem to suggest the same.

“That is to say that, the Selection Committee may recommend, in deserving cases with proper justification, more than one sportsperson in respect of team sports and sportspersons of both the genders,” read the guidelines.

Veteran hockey player and drag-flick sensation Rupinder Pal Singh wrote on Twitter, "After a decade of representing the Indian team, I feel disappointed to have missed out on Arjuna Award.Fortunately, I don’t have much time to cry over this. So, I’ll put my head down, work hard and channel all my frustration towards improving my craft."

Two-time Olympic medallist, wrestler Sushil Kumar said, "Congrats to players who won awards this year, I support them. My only request to govt & committee is that awards are prestigious & must be given after meticulous decision-making. Players shouldn't get awards based on single performance."

The grievances with the committee don’t end here as various athletes have expressed their disappointment on their coaches being ignored for the Dronacharya award.

Following the same precedence, as many as 13 coaches were recommended for the award (5 in regular and 8 in lifetime category).

Also read: List of all recommendation for Khel Ratna, Arjuna awards 2020

The hue cry followed soon as 2010 CWG gold medallist boxer Manoj Kumar wrote a letter to the sports minister to reconsider his personal coach Rajendra Kumar Rajaound for Dronacharya.

“ …Request you to once see into the matter of Dronacharya Award names announced for the year. I request you to consider the achievement of my coach Rajesh Kumar and help him in getting his achievements recognised as you are our last hope in this matter,” Manoj wrote in the letter.

The boxer further argued that when in hockey two coaches — Jude Felix (regular) and Romesh Pathania (lifetime) — can be considered for the award, then why not the same can be done in boxing where former coach Shiv Singh was recommended for lifetime achievement.

Manoj was soon joined by veteran TT player Mouma Das, who took to Twitter requesting sports minister Kiren Rijiju to reconsider her coach Jayanta Pushilal as well.

P T Usha (Source: IAAF) P T Usha (Source: IAAF)

Similarly, legendary athlete PT Usha has not been considered for the Dronacharya Award. Usha, who became the first Indian woman to reach an Olympic final, is the winner of several Asian Games sprint medals. She is now motivating young athletes through her coaching academy, Usha School of Athletics.

Not to forget, with the self-nomination online procedure to come in effect from next year, which would possibly result in an increase of nominations, will the new committee continue with this new trend and make the awards less meaningful.

Also read: Why is the Khel Ratna Award named after Rajiv Gandhi?

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