New Delhi, June 09: Having already rewarded with India's highest sporting honor Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, wrestler Sakshi Malik and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu still have applied for this year's Arjuna Awards which has raised many people's eyebrows.
Sakshi earned Khel Ratna in 2016 after winning a bronze at the Rio Olympics in the same year whereas Mirabai had received the Khel Ratna in 2018 for her gold medal-winning performance at the 2017 World Championships in the USA. Till date, only 38 sportspersons have been awarded the Khel Ratna.
“I know Khel Ratna is the highest award but I missed out on the Arjuna award earlier and I want that too media. Sometimes you want all of it. Players like to get the Arjuna award. I had also applied for the Arjuna award in 2018. We had applied for both the Arjuna award and the Khel Ratna then,” Mirabai was quoted as saying to private media.
Meanwhile, the Indian Weightlifting Federation secretary general Sahdev Yadav said it’s Mirabai’s dream to win the award and they cannot stop her from applying for it. “We can’t stop her. She applied and we forwarded her application to the sports ministry. It’s her dream to get the Arjuna. She told us that she wanted to see Arjuna awardee alongside her name. Who are we to stop her?” Yadav said.
“Mirabai didn’t ask for Khel Ratna. She didn’t apply for the Khel Ratna ever. The ministry gave her the award in 2018, "he added.
On the other hand, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is surprised at Sakshi’s application. "It is like you’ve already done your Ph.D. in a subject and then applied for graduation in the same subject," an unnamed WFI official was quoted as saying. "She had no achievement before the Rio Olympics, so her name was not sent for Arjuna. Since she won a bronze in Rio, she directly got the Khel Ratna at that time. Now she wants the Arjuna award as well."
An official from a Union Sports Ministry said should either of the two ends up receiving the honor, it will be the first such case in the history of India national sports awards. "A unique thing that has happened. In fact, it has also stupefied us. We will have to contemplate the course of action," the unnamed official was quoted as saying.
Having said that, the Arjuna Awardees get benefits in Air and Rail travels along with a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh, statuette, ceremonial dress, and a certificate.
However, the possibilities of Sakshi getting the awards are less as she had lost twice to young grappler Sonam Malik after stopping her to enter even in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers. If WFI goes by performance, wrestlers like Deepak Punia (86kg) and Rahul Aware (61kg, non-Olympic category) stand a better chance to get the award against her.
Earlier, it was reported that the sports ministry has also allowed the sportspersons to file their nomination either by self-application considering the difficulties faced by them in getting the recommendation of the prescribed authorities/persons due to country-wide lockdown on account of COVID-19 pandemic.
It stated, "it has been decided, with the approval of the central competent authority, to do away with the condition of submitting the applications only with the recommendations of the authorities/persons prescribed in the award scheme," the ministry said in a circular. Therefore, the sportspersons eligible with the award guidelines are now permitted to self-apply without the recommendations of the authorities/persons. Accordingly, the part of the form requiring the recommendation of the prescribed authorities/persons may be left blank."