Like our sportspersons, the functioning and the outlook of the sports ministry too have undergone some transformation. Though lots need to be done, the ministry has become more professional and pragmatic in its approach. The ministry’s initiatives are now more player-centric and transparent.
Take for instance this year’s Arjuna Awards. There have been instances when the ministry messed it up trying to accommodate athletes due to external pressure. A decade earlier, the Awards used to be mired in controversies with allegations of corruption and manipulation. On another occasion, it could have got it horrendously wrong but not this time. Tennis star Rohan Bopanna and weightlifter Sanjita Chanu, a Commonwealth Games medallist, presented their cases after the last day of submission for Arjuna Awards was over. The ministry, however, has the right to add or delete names as they deem fit.
Though the ministry gave Bopanna a patient hearing and even accepted Sanjita Chanu’s request, the final call was simple—to adhere to the list the Arjuna Awards committee had forwarded. Though under intense pressure, the ministry did not name these players in its list. While finalising it, the ministry did not go by the panel’s recommendation entirely. It used its discretionary power to omit para-athlete coach R Satyanarayana’s name from the Dronacharya Award’s list because he has a criminal defamation case pending against him. Satyanarayana and former Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) president Rajesh Tomar were locked in a bitter battle in 2015 over misappropriation of funds. In fact, it was the ministry which acted when para-athletes were forced to crawl and eat substandard unhygienic food during a nationals in Ghaziabad. The ministry suspended the committee and later the International Paralympic Committee too suspended them due to a bitter tussle within the PCI. Satyanarayana may cry foul for being ignored but what ministry did was well within its rights.