The sports ministry for once has jumped the gun by deciding to recommend the name of Saina Nehwal following her show of displeasure after being ignored for the Padma Bhushan. Whether it should have succumbed to the pressure created by Saina’s public outrage is debatable. But because of this one act, the ministry has set a dangerous precedent. This might create more controversy because now on, every sportsperson who thinks he or she is eligible for such awards will try and lobby—either on a public forum or through the media.
Also, Padma Bhushan is a civilian award—the third highest after Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan—which has nothing to do with sports, unlike the Arjuna or the Khel Ratna. And if Saina thinks her achievements are at par with Sushil Kumar’s, perhaps she was ignorant. Sushil is a double Olympic individual medallist, a feat unmatched in the history of Indian sports. He is also a former world champion and Asiad gold medallist.
If the sports ministry is to be blamed for this knee-jerk reaction, then Saina, as a sports icon, too should be more responsible with her comments. She cannot afford to make her feelings known on a public forum and then come back and say “I was not complaining” the very next day. This definitely does not reflect well on her maturity. What Vijender Singh asked for was not the award. He was simply saying if Saina’s name could be recommended, why not his? He, too, has won an Olympic bronze. He has an Asian Games gold and a world championship bronze. Like Saina, he was honoured with the Padma Shri in 2010. So, it was logical for him to believe that he too deserved this award. Of late, sports awards have been marred by controversies. There have been instances when athletes took legal recourse to win awards. Just hope, acts like these by the ministry and players don’t trivialise an honour as high as the Padma Bhushan.