It’s rare to come by in the ring, but when it’s about the Arjuna Awards, boxer Manoj Kumar should consider himself lucky that he is getting a second chance. The Arjuna Awards committee, which had ignored his candidacy in a case of mistaken identity — is set to be re-convened to discuss the issue of Manoj and others who had missed out in the list of 15.
The committee is going to be re-convened either on August 19 or 20, depending upon the availability of chairman Kapil Dev. This would be the first time that the entire committee will meet again.
Sources said the decision to call all the members for the meeting was taken following instructions from the sports ministry which is keen to avoid the kind of controversy that had surrounded naming the recipients for last year’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards.
Last year, discus thrower Krishna Poonia and para-athlete HN Girisha had openly challenged the committee’s decision to award Ronjan Sodhi the country’s highest sporting order. Moreover, triple jumper Renjith Maheswary’s name was withdrawn hours before the awards ceremony after it emerged that the committee had overlooked his failed dope test.
This year, Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medal winning boxer Manoj’s application was disregarded after it was erroneously mentioned that he had flunked a dope test. It turned out that this was a case of mistaken identity and Manoj paid for the sins of a junior boxer, who shared the same name.
“There have been several representations to the (sports) ministry and SAI after the awards were named. The committee will have a re-look at all the cases,” said a source.
Besides Manoj, the committee will also go through other complaints that have surfaced in the days after the Kapil-led panel announced 15 names for the awards.
Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra also had complained how the committee was biased.
“Out of 15 awards five are from one state only. Is it a coincidence or a professionally managed coup by SAI and the ministry of sports? Is there anything called conflict of interest if someone is from the same federation or related to an award nominee or employee, or an ex-employee of a federation? Should they not recuse themselves,” Batra had asked.
In fact, he singled out a former long jumper saying she ensured a medal for her relative.
Boxer Paramjit Samota, too, had raised objections after he was sidelined in favour of Jai Bhagwan, a bronze medallist at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Besides, Deepika Pallikal’s mother Susan, too criticised the decision to give the Arjuna to squash player Anaka Alankamony, who in her view had little performance to show for on the international circuit.
She had even threatened that both Dipika and Joshana Chinappa, winners of the historic women’s doubles gold medal in squash at Glasgow Commonwealth Games, may return their Arjuna Awards if Anaka is given the award.