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Integrity upheld

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Indian sports was saved from a major embarrassment by the Union Government, thanks to the insistence that there would no change in the list of...

Indian sports was saved from a major embarrassment by the Union Government, thanks to the insistence that there would no change in the list of nominations already sent by the respective associations and federations with regard to the Arjuna awards and Rajiv Khel Ratna. By not bowing to unsavoury influences and cheap pressure tactics adopted by certain sections with regard to the prestigious Khel Ratna awards, the Government has sent across the message that administrators and not sportspersons will have the final say in the selection of awards for excellence.

The manner discus thrower Krishna Poonia tried to bulldoze her candidature was strange. It was unsporting and certainly unbecoming of her to fight the system when the selection panel zeroed in on champion shooter Ronjan Sodhi. By any yardstick, his achievements on the international firmament are way above those of Poonia. That controversy erupted in the first place is quite an indication of the mess sports culture finds itself in.

This is not the first such instance of its kind. Four years back, another shooter Gagan Narang had expressed his dismay when shuttler Saina Nehwal was preferred over him for the same award, despite his amazing exploits in the World Cup and the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He had a point because Saina had not even won the Olympic medal by then. With rejection of the petitions filed by Poonia and paralympian H N Girisha, it has become clear that the awardees would be picked on the basis only of international merit. One should give credit to the members in the panel, which included billiards legend Michael Ferreira and ace shooter Anjali Bhagwat, whose credentials are impeccable and stand testimony to India’s rise in non-cricketing disciplines. It is disgusting that Poonia tried to buy her way into the list by tapping Bhagwat, who, thankfully, did not buckle under ‘Olympian’ pressure.

The Sports Ministry has done well to reject the claims made by Poonia and Girisha because it has upheld the decisions taken by men and women of proven stature whose upright behaviour and integrity stand out. The saddest part of the whole drama is that the country allows such unruly scenes while the media thrives on taking sides. It was unsporting of several Olympians who tried to rally behind Poonia. It is time the government set some stringent by-laws in place whereby those missing out on honours will not be allowed to go around shedding tears.
Meanwhile, while on the one side the Sports Ministry has respected national sentiment by indicating that Dhyan Chand had to be preferred over Sachin Tendulkar for the Bharat Ratna, the Ministry fumbled and disgraced the hockey wizard by making a mockery of his birth anniversary. Who gave it the moral right to postpone the National Sports Day from August 29 to 31 whatever be the compulsions? It is nothing but showing disrespect to the memory of the man who pitch forked India to global fame much before cricket could cross the Sub-continent.
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