In yet another unprecedented decision, the Union Sports Ministry’s awards committee has selected 11 athletes for Khel Ratna. It’s another deviation from the norm. Selecting 11 shows the awards committee did not want to take any chance apropos omitting names. It had been an exceptional Olympics and Paralympic Games for India and the challenges before the committee would have been many. But somehow 11 seems too many. Since the awards are based on performances over a four-yearly cycle, some of them could have been accommodated later. In the end, the novelty the awards carry should not be diluted.
According to the Khel Ratna criteria: “There will be only one award every year to be given to an individual sportsperson. This condition will be relaxed only in exceptional circumstances”. Take for instance Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra. His name was sent for the country’s highest sporting award previously too but his name was never considered. He had won a Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold and a host of other medals in this cycle. Yet his name was never considered for Khel Ratna.
On the other hand, Manika Batra’s Khel Ratna raised a few eyebrows last year when a record five athletes were chosen for the award. Interestingly, Sharath Kamal, India’s most successful table tennis player, is yet to get the Khel Ratna.
Also take for example Ravi Dahiya, a silver medallist at the Olympics. He had applied for the Arjuna. For Ravi, Arjuna was the dream. Same is the case with para-athlete Sumit Antil, who also said he would request the federation and sports ministry to consider him for Arjuna. There is another possibility, Ravi was awarded the Khel Ratna because he could not have been ignored as some of the other names on the list do not match his Olympic silver.
There is also a possibility that all the medallists were considered for Khel Ratna to accommodate more in Arjuna. Three — Bajrang Punia, PV Sindhu and Mirabai Chanu — out of the seven Olympic medallists (one in men’s hockey) this time have already been conferred with Khel Ratna. It’s not a matter of who is deserving. It’s a matter of selecting the most deserving.
In a novel gesture, the entire bronze-winning men’s hockey team have been nominated for the Arjuna. Vandana Katariya and Monika from the women’s hockey team too figure on the list.
What Khel Ratna winners get Rs 25l (tax free)
Neeraj Chopra (Athletics) Ravi Dahiya (Wrestling) PR Sreejesh (Hockey) Lovlina Borgohai (Boxing) Sunil Chhetri (Football) Mithali Raj (Cricket) Pramod Bhagat (Badminton) Sumit Antil (Javelin) Avani Lekhara (Shooting) Krishna Nagar (Badminton) M Narwal (Shooting)