The Dronacharya award is named after the legendary archery teacher in the Mahabharata, but the modern version and his wards have been left miffed by the lack of recognition, or more pertinently, recognition taken away.
National compound archery coach Jiwanjot Singh Teja was recommended for this year’s Dronacharya Award by the selection committee, only for his name to be rejected by the sports ministry for an indiscretion three years ago.
Teja was the national coach at the 2015 World University Games in Korea when the women’s compound team failed to reach the venue on time for the bronze medal playoff, thereby forfeiting the contest. The Archery Association of India (AAI) banned him for a year, but the coach from Punjab returned to the fold after serving the suspension and has been instrumental in the improvement in India’s fortunes in compound archery.
“We were No. 15 in Asia five years ago. Now we are second. The men’s team won gold at the 2014 Asian Games and both teams clinched silver medals this time in Jakarta. The women’s team is ranked No.1 in the world. We are winning medals at the Asian and world levels all the time. I have produced four Arjuna awardees, but merit is being ignored by the sports ministry,” Teja told The Indian Express. “Medals should be given more weightage and the information about which coach has contributed to which medals should be put online. Athletes’ feedback should be taken on which coach has really helped him win a medal.”
Teja said he had already been punished for what happened three years ago, though the AAI now claims it was not his fault. “There were others who were responsible. But if he has to be punished continuously, why has the government sent him as chief coach for so many international tournaments,” an AAI official said on the condition of anonymity. “We, as a federation cannot do much as the list of awardees has not been officially released yet and moreover, we are a de-recognised body as of now.”
The official hinted that Teja, who has suffered the same fate earlier also when his name was in the running for the award, has been a “victim of jealousy, internal politics and pressure tactics.” The coach himself feels all his hard work and dedication has gone waste. “I have given several years of my life to preparing world-class archers who will win laurels for the country. I was at the range from 6 am to 8 pm every day. I became a father in 2010 but have missed my son’s formative years as I was away,” Teja lamented. “I will never apply for the award in the future. If they want to give it to me, they will have to come to me.”
Abhishek Verma, one of the top compound archers in the country, expressed his displeasure. In a tweet addressed to sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, he said: “Dear sir, shocked that top archery coach Jiwanjot Singh Teja is being punished for no fault of his. The man who has scripted the success of Indian archery. Justice for Dronacharya. At least should be given one hearing if there was a complaint.”
He felt the ministry should have put some thought before rejecting the recommendation. “Whatever has happened is wrong. He is really deserving of the award. Me and other archers like Rajat Chauhan and Vennam Jyothi Surekha have only tweeted as of now. If the rejection is not reversed, we will try to arrange a meeting with the sports minister. If the government does not listen to Arjuna awardees like us, these awards are meaningless,” Verma told this paper.