President gives away National Sports Awards devoid of Khel Ratna
NEW DELHI: Mired in selection controversies and devoid
of a Khel Ratna for the first time in 20 years, the National Sports Awards were
presented by President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Friday
in a ceremony which was severely short on star power.
Like the past editions, selection controversies cast a
shadow on the ceremony and matters came to a head when boxer Manoj Kumar
dragged the Sports Ministry to court after being overlooked for the Arjuna
award despite qualifying in the new points system.
Add to this, the awards selection committee did not
find any athlete worthy of the country’s highest sporting honour - the Rajiv
Gandhi Khel Ratna - this year.
None of the seven candidates, whose names were forwarded
to the committee, got the 12-member panel’s nod, making it the first time since
1994 when no sportsperson was named for the top award.
Controversies aside, the ceremony followed the
long-standing traditions as awardees walked up to receive their respective
honours from the President amid resounding applause from the dignitaries
present, including Vice President M Hamid Ansari and Sports Minister Sarbananda
A notable absentee from the ceremony today was
cricketer R Ashwin. The off-spinner could not make it as he is currently on
national duty in England in an ongoing ODI series.
The others who were bestowed the honour were Akhilesh
Varma (archery), Tintu Luka (athletics), HN Girisha (paralympics), V Diju
(badminton), Geetu Ann Jose (basketball), Jai Bhagwan (boxing), Anirban Lahiri
(golf), Mamta Pujari (kabaddi), Saji Thomas (rowing), Heena Sidhu (shooting),
Anaka Alankamony (squash), Tom Joseph (volleyball), Renubala Chanu
(weightlifting) and Sunil Rana (wrestling).
Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardees received
statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each. Recipients of Rashtriya
Khel Protsahan Puruskar were given trophies.
The awards selection panel, headed by cricket legend
Kapil Dev, included the likes of Anju Bobby George and Kunjarani Devi, two
mediapersons and three government representatives, including Sports Authority
of India Director General Jiji Thomson.
Picking 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist Jai
Bhagwan and ignoring the gold-medallist from the same event, Manoj Kumar, had
led to a massive controversy ahead of the award. 20-year-old squash player
Alankamony’s inclusion in the list had also raised eyebrows. Kumar, with 32
points, had maximum points amongst the boxers who applied for the honour and
two more than Bhagwan.
Awards list: Arjuna award: Akhilesh Varma (Archery),
Tintu Luka (Athletics), HN Girisha (Paralympics), V Diju (Badminton), Geetu Ann
Jose (Basketball), Jai Bhagwan (Boxing), Ravichandran Ashwin (Cricket), Anirban
Lahiri (Golf), Mamta Pujari (Kabaddi), Saji Thomas (Rowing), Heena Sidhu
(Shooting), Anaka Alankamany (Squash), Tom Joseph (Volleyball), Renubala Chanu
(Weightlifting) and Sunil Rana (Wrestling).
Dronacharya award: Mahabir Prasad (Wrestling), N
Lingappa (Athletics - Lifetime), G Manoharan (Boxing - Lifetime), Gurcharan
Singh Gogi (Judo - Lifetime), Jose Jacob (Rowing - Lifetime).
Dhyan Chand award: Gurmail Singh (Hockey), KP Thakkar
(Swimming - Diving), Zeeshan Ali (Tennis).