Legendary athlete Milkha Singh and champion shooter Gagan Narang feel that the government must have a clear-cut criteria for rewarding sportspersons excelling in international events.
Both Milkha and Narang questioned the logic behind honouring some sportspersons with state awards and ignoring some others. They feel that there has to be transparency in selection and a sportsperson cannot get the award because of the status of his sport or the clout he or she wields.
Milkha has a proposal to increase the number of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, given to the most oustanding sportsperson every year.
"This year there is going to be a problem. Marykom is a frontrunner and then you have Sushil and Vijender. So, I feel the number of Khel Ratna award should be increased. In situations like this where there are more deserving candidates more than one person should be given the Khel Ratna," Milkha told IANS.
"If I am in the awards committee this year, I would like to propose that the number of Khel Ratna be raised. What is the harm, if you give the Khel Ratna to two deserving candidates?" he said.
Narang, who narrowly missed making the Olympic final on a countback feels that there is no clarity in government's selection policy when it came to non-Olympic sports.
"For instance, in non-Olympic sports, cricketers and golfers get recognition but the claims of women's world boxing champion M.C. Marykom has been consistently ignored despite her winning the world title four times in a row. There appear no norms for selecting sportspersons for awards."
The shooter from Hyderabad was disappointed that Olympic bronze medallists Sushil Kumar and Vijender were not selected for the prestigious Padma awards.
"In what way are their achievements any lesser compared to those who have been chosen for the awards. Come to think of it, I too can have a legitimate grouse. Tell me which other sportsman has a world record to his credit or when was the last world record created by any Indian sportsman. I have been performing consistently well for the past few years but have never been considered for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna," he said.
Milkha also supported Narang's claims and said the whole awards system should be changed.
"I am sure there was no representative from either the sports ministry or the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on the committee for the Padma awards. Until you have proper representation how will you know who is the deserving sportsperson. It was really unfortunate that Sushil and Vijender have been left out of the awardees' list," said Milkha, who was the chairman of the selection committee for Arjuna Awards and Khel Ratna last year.