Allegations of bias, favouritism, disregard for achievements of some athletes have been levelled at the members of the committee, which recommended 15 sportspersons for the Arjuna awards. While over the years similar assertions have been made by those who feel aggrieved on not finding their name among the chosen few, an oversight by the committee members means that at least one of those crying foul may have a genuine reason to be distressed. Manoj Kumar, the boxer who won a gold at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, seems to have lost out to Jai Bhagwan, a bronze-medal winner at the 2010 Games, because the former was mistaken for his namesake – another pugilist who failed a dope test.
“Another boxer who also goes by the name Manoj Kumar had failed a dope test. But that Manoj Kumar is not the same as the Delhi CWG gold-medal winner,” a member of the awards committee told The Indian Express on Wednesday. This case of mistaken identity came to light only after the awards committee had concluded its meeting and forwarded its recommendations
On Tuesday, Kumar, the Delhi CWG title winner, had said: “The last time my name was ignored as Kavita Goyat got the award. This year I am shocked that the committee chose someone who is not in the national camp and only won a bronze medal at the 2010 CWG, while I won the gold medal at the same edition of the Games. I will protest this decision and I will file a RTI regarding this.”
According to the member of the Arjuna awards committee — chaired by Kapil Dev, the 1983 World-Cup winning skipper — pistol shooter Heena Sidhu’s gold medal at the 2013 World Cup Finals in Munich wasn’t taken into consideration and hence she was in danger of losing the weightage given for medals laid down in the criteria for the awards.
However, following discussions among the committee members, Sidhu’s medal won at Munich was given its due. Sidhu is one of the 15 sportspersons recommended for the Arjuna award.
Another pistol shooter Anisa Sayyed’s application was rejected on account of a reprimand she received in 2012 after she tested positive for clomiphene, which is not a performance-enhancing drug, but was on WADA’s prohibited list.
Golfer Jeev Milkha Singh wasn’t given any points – as per criteria – initially as some of the members thought that as he was a professional golfer he did not represent India. The committee members changed their opinion later.
Hockey India general secretary Narinder Batra criticised the decision-making process of the 11-member committee. “Out of 15 Arjuna Award winners five are from one state only. Is it a coincidence or a professionally managed coup by SAI and Ministry of Sports?” Batra asked in a statement released on Wednesday.
However, committee member and Arjuna Awardee Jaspal Rana defended the recommendations. “We had to go through information provided to us on 75 sportspersons, out of which we had to pick 15 names. Few will miss out in such a scenario. Ours is a thankless job,” Rana told The Indian Express.
Susan, the mother of Deepika Pallikal, the Glasgow gold-medal winner in women’s doubles, has protested the decision to nominate Anaka Alankomony’s name for the Arjuna Awards. While questioning why Anaka was selected, Susan, in an email to Sports Authority of India director general Jiji Thomson, has said that the upcoming squash player did not deserve the award.
She also said that both Dipika and Joshana Chinappa may even return their Arjuna Awards in protest. Her contention was that Anaka had not won a national championships. Also the fact that her ranking has been on the downslide – she has slipped from a career-high 59 to 151 in the last four years – means she has not done anything notable on the professional tour.
The committee, though gave weightage to the team medals that the Anaka bagged at the Asian Games (bronze in Guangzhou) and the gold at the 2012 Asian Championships.
“Criticism about Anaka’s recommendations are wrong because we all felt that a junior player doing well and competing with the seniors and winning medals merited this award,” Rana said.