Ankit Sharma Sharma
Green tea Addict | A Tree Hugger | Born for Change
On 20th September 2018, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports announced National Sports Awards 2018 and selected Virat Kohli (Cricket) and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting) for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. However, these two selections are fuelling controversy, as wrestler Bajrang Punia is miffed up with the Government for his omission from the award despite having the maximum number of points. As reported by The Times of India (TOI), there were at least six people whose points were more than Chanu (44 points), which includes Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat scoring the highest points (80 points). The Award selection committee, led by Justice (Ms.) Indermeet Kaur Kochhar, chose Virat Kohli, with zero points over Bajrang Punia who had 80 points. The awards will be presented on 25th September at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) nominated Bajrang for this year’s Khel Ratna Award following his consecutive gold medal triumphs at this year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games. As quoted to The Hindu, Bajrang said, “Earlier it was about four years’ or one year’s performance but now there is a points system in place. It is very easy for anyone to see not just his own but the possible points earned by all the nominees and winners. And I know I have the maximum points of all the names so I wish to know the reason for being ignored”. He also met Sports Minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on Friday to discuss the issue and got assurance to have a relook in the matter, as reported by the DNA.
To bring more transparency in the selection process, Sports Ministry had brought a point based selection criteria in 2014 for all the nominated sportspersons by the respective sports federations. The selection process contains 90% weightage for medals won in Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and other international competitions while 10% weightage is given to marks given by the appointed selection committee.
|S.N.||Criteria||Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for most outstanding performance|
|1.||Weightage for the medals won in Olympic Games (Summer, Winter and Paralympics), Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Cup / World Championships held once in 4 years.|| |
|2.||Weightage to the marks given by the Selection Committee for assessment of the eligible sportsperson/coach keeping in view factors like profile and standard of the sports event in which medal has been won|| |
|3.||No. Of awards to be given normally in a year||1 award|
Source (Press Information Bureau)
However, it is interesting to note here that cricket is not included in the list of international sports events authorised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Hence, there is no existing points system in place for achievers in cricket. Though cricket has been included in this award category, no specific selection criteria are mentioned for it. Formerly, cricketers have been selected for the award through consensus among the committee members. Cricketers who have won this award include Sachin Tendulkar (1997-1998) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (2007-2008).
“When Kohli’s name came up for discussion, it was decided to pick him through a show of hands in the absence of a points system for cricket,” The Times Of India quoted one of the committee members as saying. He explained that eight of the eleven total members supported Kohli’s candidature which was how he was finally selected. The member added that Bajrang Punia’s name was discussed along with Vinesh Phogat but they were not considered for the final selection.
Expressing his displeasure over this discrepancy, Punia remarked, “I want to ask them (committee members) a simple question: ‘What’s the use of having a points system in place when you don’t adhere to it?,'” reports The Times Of India.
Selection processes for these awards have always been a point of contention between the selection committees and the sportspersons. In the past years, after the awards were announced, many sportspersons have been seen to criticise their federations and selection committees for overlooking them.
Last year, Rohan Bopanna openly criticised All India Tennis Association, when his junior Saketh Myneni was given preference over him for Arjuna Award.
Former Hockey captain Sardara Singh’s selection for Khel Ratna award garnered controversy last year as he was facing court proceedings for alleged sexual assault on an Indian-origin hockey player from England.
Similar outbursts were seen from Discus Thrower Krishna Poonia and Paralympic medalist HN Girisha in 2013 when they were not nominated for Khel Ratna award.
In the present selection process for Khel Ratna Awards, cricket does not have an allocated number of parameters to be graded as it is not represented at the Olympics. The problem lies with the grading system and further controversies can only be avoided if equal parameters are set for all sports. The committee should adopt a more transparent system of selection, devoid of loopholes that might give rise to discontent among deserving sportspersons.
Sports are not only confined to earning money or fame, but it’s the glory, for which these sportspeople live for. And it’s the government’s job to facilitate these talented people who put their best effort to bring glory to the nation. Politics, nepotism, discrimination etc. should never be brought in between of such instances when there is a chance to repay these sportspersons. These awards boost their confidence and motivate them to do improve their performances. At the same time, reward money given with these awards provides them with a financial support to live a good life.
Also Read: Don’t run after Arjuna and Khel Ratna, India
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