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Khel Ratna, Arjuna awardees honoured in virtual ceremony attended by President, prize money hiked

The recipients received blazers and certificates during the ceremony. It was learnt that the medallions, trophies and statuettes will be handed over to the winners once the situation becomes normal.

Published: 29th August 2020 04:08 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th August 2020 09:40 AM   |  A+A-

Arjuna Award

Arjuna Award (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Almost all the villagers at Sargave in Dodamarg tehsil of Sindhudurg district were glued to their television sets on Saturday morning. The Maharashtra village, with a population of around 3500, was beaming with pride as one of its natives was to receive the Arjuna award during the National Sports Awards ceremony held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I messaged the timings of the function to my fellow villagers. I started receiving congratulatory messages from them as soon as I was conferred with the award. It was good that the ceremony was telecast live on Doordarshan as every native of my village was able to watch it,” tent pegger Ajay Sawant told The New Indian Express. The 45-year-old, a Risaldar from B Squadron 61 Cavalry, attended the function at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.

The virtual ceremony was attended by President Ram Nath Kovind and sports minister Kiren Rijiju, among other dignitaries. The function began with Rijiju's address, followed by the ceremony to honour athletes, coaches and various organisation working to promote sports in the country. It ended with the President's speech.

The names of Khel Ratna recipients were called out first with para athlete Mariyappan Thangavelu receiving the honour followed by India women’s hockey captain Rani Rampal. Paddler Manika Batra was honoured in Pune. The other two awardees – wrestler Vinesh Phogat and cricketer Rohit Sharma – missed the ceremony. While Phogat tested positive for coronavirus, Sharma is in Abu Dhabi to lead his side Mumbai Indians in the 13th edition of the IPL.

All the awardees were tested for COVID-19 ahead of the rehearsal held on August 27.

As many as 11 SAI and NIC centres across the country hosted the function with Kovind attending the ceremony from Rashtrapati Bhavan. Wrestler Rahul Aware, who received the Arjuna award in Pune, felt the honour was much needed relief for the athletes. “It will motivate the athletes to keep working hard towards their goals irrespective of the situation. It would have been better if I had received the awards at Rashtrapati Bhavan from the President himself but given the crisis, I don’t have any regret,” Aware said.

The recipients received blazers and certificates during the ceremony. It was learnt that the medallions, trophies and statuettes will be handed over to the winners once the situation becomes normal.

Prize money enhanced

The sports minister, on the occasion, announced an enhancement in the prize money in four of the seven categories of the awards. The prize money for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award has been increased to Rs 25 lakh from Rs 7.5 lakh, Arjuna Award has been enhanced to Rs 15 lakh from Rs 5 lakh, the Dronacharya (Lifetime) awardees, who were earlier given Rs 5 lakh will now be given Rs 15 lakh as cash prize, while Dronacharya (Regular) will be given Rs 10 lakh instead of Rs 5 lakh per awardee. Dhyanchand awardees will be given Rs 10 lakh instead of Rs 5 lakh.

Speaking about the decision, Rijiju said: “The prize money for the Sports Awards was last reviewed in 2008. These amounts should be reviewed once every 10 years at least. If professionals in every field have seen an enhancement in their earnings, why not our sportspersons.”



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