Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday defended his government's decision to confer a record 74 National Sports Awards this year, including an unprecedented five Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna honours, a move which faced severe criticism from all quarters.
This year, the Sports Ministry's selection committee recommended five athletes, including star cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestler Vinesh Phogat among others for the Khel Ratna, while selecting 27 for the Arjuna awards. The ministry will also honour 13 coaches for the Dronacharya and 15 for Dhyan Chand awards.
"The performance of our athletes in the international level has become better. When our players perform better, they have to be recognized and rewarded. If the Govt doesn't recognise their achievements, it will discourage every budding sporting talents we have in India," Rijiju said on Saturday.
"So, compared to the previous years, the performances of the indian athletes have gone up considerably and as a result, the number of award winners have also gone up."
The Sports Minister further said his ministry has no say in deciding the sports awards and the winners are selected by an independent committee, headed by a former Supreme Court judge.
"Secondly, there should be a proper process in which you make a choice. For the sports awards, the committee was headed by a Supreme Court judge and all the renowned people from the field of sports. "When they take a call there is intense deliberation, discussion and there are set guidelines on the basis of which they have used their judgement," he said.
Rijiju also said if any candidate missed out this year, the sportsperson will be honoured next year. "There might be disappointments on certain occasions but sports awards are not for one year. It is the cumulative performance of four years. So if any sports person is left out because of other contenders in the same category, it is rewarded next year," he said.
"The Minister doesn't decide the awards, the Minister only gives the consent on behalf of the Govt but it is the technical committee which decides."
Rijiju on Saturday morning paid floral tribute to the statue of hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on the occasion of his 115th birth anniversary, which is celebrated as the National Sports Day. Rijiju was joined by other dignitaries during the ceremony and he also took time to address a Khelo India e-pathshala at the stadium.
"Today is a very important day for all of us, especially the sporting fraternity. Major Dhyan Chand's three consecutive gold medals for India and his exemplary skills and determination makes every Indian proud," Rijiju said in a statement issued by Sports Authority of India.
"On the occasion of this National Sports Day, the government confers the awards and I would like to congratulate all the award winners for the accolades and honours they have brought to India."
First Published: IST