Punjab forgets its greatest sporting icons
The Punjab government is set to bestow state’s highest sporting honour --- — Maharaja Ranjit Singh award --- upon its eminent achievers. However, the list of awardees, surprisingly enough, doesn’t have a mention of sporting icons such as triple-Olympic hockey gold medallist Balbir Singh senior, legendary athlete Milkha Singh, 1975 hockey world cup winning captain Ajit Pal Singh, the country’s first Asian Games women gold medallist Kamaljit Kaur and many others.
As per the state’s new sports policy — drafted in 2011 and amended in October 2018 — all Padma, Arjuna and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardees, from Punjab, are automatically eligible for the Maharaja Ranjit Singh award. Post policy amendments, the state is going to confer the award upon 94 outstanding sportspersons, including 14 by virtue of being Arjuna awardee and one Padma awardee, at a function in Chandigarh on July 9. The rest are getting honoured for their current achievements.
Balbir, Milkha and Ajit Pal are all Padma awardees and had played for Punjab in their sporting days. The Maharaja Ranjit Singh award was instituted in 1978 and by that time many of these sportspersons had already retired. As per the earlier rule, only active sportspersons were considered for this honour. However, the 2011 amendments were made to accommodate such icons.
“If the policy clearly states that all Padma and Arjuna awardees, who were sportspersons of Punjab, are automatically eligible for the award, then it becomes the responsibility of the government to fete the icons,” says Ajit Pal. “Hockey legend Balbir Singh Senior is hospitalised. It would have beenvery graceful on part of the government to visit him and present the award. Do they expect players of his stature to beg or apply for the government award?,” he adds.
“They are our sporting legends and the state has always been proud of them. We will look into this matter, for sure,” said Amrit Kaur Gill.
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