Putting an end to speculations, the Sports Ministry today stuck to the original list of Arjuna awards winners, thereby dashing boxer Manoj Kumar's hopes of getting the sporting honour. (Kapil Dev is an opportunist, says Hockey India)
The controversial recommendation of boxer Jai Bhagwan for the prestigious Arjuna Award has been finalised after the Kapil Dev-led selection committee, which met again yesterday, decided not to make any changes in the original 15-athlete list.
Sports Authority of India (SAI) Director General Jiji Thomson,who was part of the committee, had said the panel discussed seven athletes in the review meeting but it was unanimously agreed that no changes were needed. The sports ministry subsequently approved the names of all the athletes recommended by the panel for the ceremony to be held on August 29 at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The controversy started after the selection committee, which originally met on August 12, choose Bhagwan over 2010 Commonwealth gold medallist boxer Manoj. It forced the committee to meet again and reconsider its decision.
Apart from Bhagwan, 20-year-old squash player Anaka Alankamony's inclusion in the list had also raised eyebrows, while Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra went to the extent of slamming the panel for overlooking seven of its recommended players.
Thomson said Manoj's application was not considered earlier owing to a case of mistaken identity and the committee discussed him in the review meeting.
However, the committee thought Bhagwan was also a deserving candidate and therefore stuck to its stance. Manoj, with 32 points, had maximum points amongst the boxers who applied for the honour and two more than Delhi CWG bronze medallist Bhagwan.
The committee has also recommended to the Sports Ministry that not more than 15 sportspersons should be conferred Arjuna Awards each year. It was also argued that points can't be the only criteria for selecting athletes. Under the existing points system, performances of last four years are marked and considered. Meanwhile, in a rare decision, no athlete has been found suitable for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2014. Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardees will receive statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each. Recipients of Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar will be given trophies.
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), K P Thakkar (Swimming -- Diving), Zeeshan Ali (Tennis).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar: 1. Employment of sports persons and sports welfare measures Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), 2. Community Sports -- identification and nurturing of budding /young talent Jindal Steel Works (JSW), 3. Establishment and Management of sports academies of excellence Guru Hanuman Akhara, Delhi, 4. Other forms of sports activities not covered in the four categories mentioned in the schemes Child Link Foundation of India (Magic Bus).