Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking the country’s highest civillian honour — the Bharat Ratna — for hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr.
Amarinder, in his letter to Modi on Wednesday, called the 95-year-old legend, an outstanding sportsperson of his era.
“I wish to draw your attention to the subject cited (award of Bharat Ratna to Balbir Sr) and request to award Bharat Ratna to Shri Balbir Singh Sr, one of the most respectful and outstanding sportspersons of India since Independence,” wrote Amarinder.
“Shri Balbir Singh has been an outstanding sportsperson in the field of hockey and was part of the Indian team that won gold medals in Olympic games of 1948, 1952 and 1956. He was also the captain of the Indian team in 1956 Olympics.
“As a recognition to his contribution, Shri Balbir Singh (Sr) has already been awarded the Padma Shri in 1957. I strongly recommend and request you to consider awarding Bharat Ratna to Shri Balbir Singh (Sr),” he further wrote.
Reacting to Amarinder’s letter to the Prime Minister, Balbir Sr. thanked the chief minister and said he felt humbled.
“Due recognition acts like elixir to sportspersons. Awards and recognition are in the hands of the almighty and the government of the day. I would like to thank Capt Amarinder Singh for the recommendation based on a lifetime dedicated to sports as a player, coach, manager and administrator. I am humbled,” the legendary centre-forward told PTI.
Amarinder later tweeted: “Wrote to PM@NarendraModi ji, requesting to award Bharat Ratna to Shri Balbir Singh (Sr) for his outstanding performance in Hockey. He was a 3 time Olympic gold champion having played an imp role in 1948,1952 & Captain of 1956 win. He is the greatest ever centre-forward.”
One of the country’s tallest sportspersons, Balbir Sr was the only Indian in a list of 16 legends chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) across the modern Olympic history.
His world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men’s hockey final in an Olympic Games still remains unbeaten.
He had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Games.
He was also the manager of India’s World Cup-winning team in 1975. He was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1957.
Amarinder Singh had last month presented the Maharaja Ranjit Singh award to Balbir Sr at the PGIMER here. At that time, the chief minister had said he intended to recommend Balbir Sr.’s name for the Bharat Ratna.
In October last year, Balbir Sr. was admitted to PGIMER following bronchial pneumonia and last month too he had been admitted to the hospital. He was later discharged and his grandson Kabir said on Thursday that the legend’s health has shown signs of improvement.