The Sports Ministry on Tuesday confirmed the names of the Arjuna awardees for this year but many have question the “dignity” of the award as the government is “throwing” the awards away. Former Arjuna awardees including former captain of Indian hockey team Ashok Kumar and middle-distance runner Sriram Singh Shekhawat raised their voices against it.
“The dignity has to be maintained. Why do you need to give Arjuna every year. Is it necessary? We are now throwing the awards away,” Ashok told PTI. “They (government) have set their own parameters. The value attached with the award should be increased. There should be a cap that only Asiad and Olympic medal winners should be selected for the Arjuna honour,” Ashok, son of the legendary hockey player Dhyanchand, said.
The 1975 World Cup winner and recipient of the Arjuna award in 1974 also questioned the process by which the awards are been given.
“You can’t beg for award or demand it. Why should I blow my own trumpet that I have achieved something. When someone goes out for competition, it happens with the permission of the government. They know the achievements so it should be the government which should pick athletes rather than players sending applications,” he said.
The awards will be conferred to the winners on August 29 — National Sports Day. Indian squash player Saurabh Ghosal also said that the process should be reconsidered.
“I think the concept of recommending or nominating someone for the awards is flawed. It just doesn’t sound right that player needs to be recommended or needs to apply for the award. The committee should pick the winners on their own on the basis of performances. Applying for the awards is like asking for a grant,” the 2006 Arjuna awardee said.
Shekhawat, who holds the national record in men’s 800m since 1976, said that there was a tough fight for the award back in his days.
“When Arjuna awards were decided for year 1972, I was Asiad medallist but still did not get it. There was only one slot and the award was given to V S Chauhan. We both were national record holders but since he was senior to me, he was chosen,” Shekhawat said. “The selected athletes should be a medal winner at least at the Asian Games level,” he suggested.
Echoing the same words, former captain of the Indian volleyball team Suresh Mishra said that there should be so many awards.
“Which name is bigger, Arjuna or Rajiv Gandhi. It’s an insult to Arjuna award. It has been degraded,” he said about the award which was constituted in 1972.
Amid all this, Zafar Iqbal, former captain of Indian hockey team, said that awards help encourage athletes.
“The award is not only for the athletes but also for the masses who follow. It encourages everyone. It has been fair. I don’t think it’s devalued,” the 1979 Arjuna awardee said.
(With PTI inputs)