The Sunday Guardian - - Sports - MANOJ JOSHI NEW DELHI

The ques­tions raised by wrestling cham­pion Bajrang Pu­nia re­gard­ing the pro­ce­dure of se­lec­tion of sportsper­sons for Ra­jeev Gandhi Khel Ratna awards some time ago, still lies unan­swered as it has put the Union Sports Min­istry in awk­ward po­si­tion.

Pu­nia’s ar­gu­ment was that de­spite hav­ing a top score of 80 points un­der the cri­te­ria set by the min­istry, he was not cho­sen for the cov­eted award. An­other cham­pion wrestler Vinesh Phogat too is wait­ing for an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse on this is­sue.

To wrig­gle out of the sit­u­a­tion, the min­istry has rec­om­mended both names to its Home counter- part for Padma awards, ig­nor­ing the fact that the fam­ily of In­dia’s first in­di­vid­ual Olympic medal win­ner Khashaba Jadhav has been promised that the pres­ti­gious civil­ian award would be be­stowed on him posthumously.

Jadhav’s fam­ily has claimed that both the Sports and Home min­is­ters have given them as­sur­ances to that ef­fect. His son Ranjeet pointed out that bow­ing be­fore the medal won by his fa­ther, Home Min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh had said in Par­lia­ment that the Olympian will be hon­oured with Padma award ei­ther this year or next year.

Sim­i­larly, Ranjeet claims, Sports Min­is­ter Ra­jyavard­han Singh Rathore too had as­sured him of a Padma award for his fa- ther. Three other per­sons were also present when he had met Rathore at his min­is­te­rial bun­ga­low, Ranjeet added.

Ma­ha­rash­tra govern­ment has nom­i­nated Khashaba’s name for the awards this year too. Ram­das Tadas, MP from Wardha, has also raised this ques­tion in Par­lia­ment. Jadhav had won the first Olympic medal in 1952 at Helsinki. His record of in­di­vid­ual Olympic medal was bro­ken af­ter 44 years in 1996 at At­lanta where Le­an­der Paes won a bronze.

Though names for the Padma awards are se­lected by the Home Min­istry, in­sid­ers con­fided that the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice (PMO) has the last word for it. Hence, both the min­istries are now look­ing to the PMO for a way out.

There is no doubt that Vinesh and Bajrang are the most de­serv­ing can­di­dates for the awards. Bajrang, in these two years, has clinched six ma­jor ti­tles in­clud­ing the ones at Asian Games, Asian Cham­pi­onship and Com­mon­wealth Games.

Sim­i­larly, Vinesh has not only won at Asiad and CWG but also won 2 gold medals at CWG cham­pi­onship and an­other at Span­ish Grand Prix as well. They both have been a great suc­cess for In­dia and are strong com­peti­tors for Tokyo Olympics.

The Sports Min­istry has sent the names of ta­ble ten­nis player Achanta Sharath Ka­mal and foot­baller Sunil Ch­hetri to the Home Min­istry for the awards. Mean­while, Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion has rec­om­mended the name of Jeetu Rai, one of coun- try’s prom­i­nent pis­tol shoot­ers, for the awards.

Among them, Sunil is the most de­serv­ing one as he has the credit of play­ing and scor­ing high­est num­ber matches and goals for In­dia re­spec­tively whereas Achanta’s achieve­ments are re­stricted to Com­mon­wealth level only and Jitu had re­ceived Ra­jiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award just two years ago.

Grapevine has it that Khashaba’s name has not been se­lected for the awards this year as well. The fact that Dhirub­hai Am­bani, J.N. Dixit, Ed­mond Hil­lary and Dr Parvez were given the awards posthumously, the Jadhav fam­ily has kept its hopes still alive. How­ever, the ball is in the PMO’s court now.

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