The questions raised by wrestling champion Bajrang Punia regarding the procedure of selection of sportspersons for Rajeev Gandhi Khel Ratna awards some time ago, still lies unanswered as it has put the Union Sports Ministry in awkward position.
Punia’s argument was that despite having a top score of 80 points under the criteria set by the ministry, he was not chosen for the coveted award. Another champion wrestler Vinesh Phogat too is waiting for an appropriate response on this issue.
To wriggle out of the situation, the ministry has recommended both names to its Home counterpart for Padma awards, ignoring the fact that the family of India’s first individual Olympic medal winner Khashaba Jadhav has been promised that the prestigious civilian award would be bestowed on him posthumously.
Jadhav’s family has claimed that both the Sports and Home ministers have given them assurances to that effect. His son Ranjeet pointed out that bowing before the medal won by his father, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said in Parliament that the Olympian will be honoured with Padma award either this year or next year.
Similarly, Ranjeet claims, Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore too had assured him of a Padma award for his father. Three other persons were also present when he had met Rathore at his ministerial bungalow, Ranjeet added.
Maharashtra government has nominated Khashaba’s name for the awards this year too. Ramdas Tadas, MP from Wardha, has also raised this question in Parliament. Jadhav had won the first Olympic medal in 1952 at Helsinki. His record of individual Olympic medal was broken after 44 years in 1996 at Atlanta where Leander Paes won a bronze.
Though names for the Padma awards are selected by the Home Ministry, insiders confided that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has the last word for it. Hence, both the ministries are now looking to the PMO for a way out.
There is no doubt that Vinesh and Bajrang are the most deserving candidates for the awards. Bajrang, in these two years, has clinched six major titles including the ones at Asian Games, Asian Championship and Commonwealth Games.
Similarly, Vinesh has not only won at Asiad and CWG but also won 2 gold medals at CWG championship and another at Spanish Grand Prix as well. They both have been a great success for India and are strong competitors for Tokyo Olympics.
The Sports Ministry has sent the names of table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal and footballer Sunil Chhetri to the Home Ministry for the awards. Meanwhile, National Rifle Association has recommended the name of Jeetu Rai, one of country’s prominent pistol shooters, for the awards.
Among them, Sunil is the most deserving one as he has the credit of playing and scoring highest number matches and goals for India respectively whereas Achanta’s achievements are restricted to Commonwealth level only and Jitu had received Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award just two years ago.
Grapevine has it that Khashaba’s name has not been selected for the awards this year as well. The fact that Dhirubhai Ambani, J.N. Dixit, Edmond Hillary and Dr Parvez were given the awards posthumously, the Jadhav family has kept its hopes still alive. However, the ball is in the PMO’s court now.