August 16, 2001

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Milkha firm on refusing Arjuna award

Onkar Singh

'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh on Thursday said he will not accept the Arjuna award for lifetime contribution.

"I have written a letter to Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Uma Bharti and expressed my inability to accept this award in view of the fact that some of those who do not even deserve a mention in the sports arena have been included in the list of Arjuna awardees," Milkha told over phone from his residence in Chandigarh.

Milkha has strongly objected to the inclusion of two female athletes, who have been nominated for the Arjuna award for lifetime contribution along with him.

"You look at the list and you would find two ladies there in the list who have no achievement to their credit. I would not like to stand with them and receive the award," he said.

"I have told Ms Bharti that while considering my case they should have kept my records in mind. Since I am already a Padma Shri awardee, therefore, while recommending my name for an award Ms Bharti should have thought of a higher medal than I have.

"These are the circumstances under which I have told her that I would not be able to attend the award ceremony to be held on August 29 at Rashtrapati Bhavan," he said.

So, do you consider that this has become a sort of a racket?

"I would not put it that bluntly. But it is quite close to that. People who have pull or can make someone talk to an official in the Ministry of Sports can swing an Arjuna award without even being a player of national stature, leave alone performing at international standard," he argued.

He advised the minister to have the right kind of people around her so that she can be guided properly.

"The Arjuna award in its present form is losing its prestige," he said, while remaining firm on rejecting the award.

Bharti had spoken to Milkha over phone last week and urged him not to reject the award.

PTI adds: Speaking to reporters in Chandigarh, Milkha said he had sent a letter to the sports minister conveying his decision not to accept the award.

He said he took the decision after a telephone conversation with Bharti, and taking into account the sentiments expressed by people in India and abroad, who suggested he should not accept it.

Milkha, who also released a copy of the letter sent to the sports minister, said, the Arjuna awards, instituted in 1961, were being given to those who did not deserve them.

"I am against this award itself and the way it is awarded," he said.

He claimed politicians and ministers recommended names for grant of the awards which were supposed to be given to those who won medals at international events including Asian Games and Olympics.

"Even the Prime Minister's Office makes recommendation of names," the 'Flying Sikh' alleged.

In his letter, Milkha thanked the Centre for including his name, adding: "It would have been appreciable, if a new-named higher award had been instituted, keeping in view my achievements, which had not been brought to your kind notice."

Listing his achievements, he informed Bharti that he had won four gold medals at the Asian Games, a gold in the Commonwealth Games in 1958 -- the first and last till date -- ran 80 races all over the world, winning 77, was awarded 'Helms World trophy' in 1959 by the United States by virtue of being the best 400 metres runner in the world and broke the Olympic record in the 1960 Rome Olympics.

"In view of above achievements, clubbing me with sports persons who are nowhere to the level that I had achieved is not desirable. My sportspersons friends in India and abroad are all strongly concerned and they are justified because I had already been honoured with Padma Shri immediately after my achievement in 1958," he said.

The athlete also held Bharti responsible for lowering the prestige of Arjuna award by giving them to undeserving individuals, but put maximum blame on officials and the committee which selects the awardees.

"I personally feel that you had good intentions, but the officers holding the sports portfolios for a long period, had not apprised your goodself the pros and cons of each awardee vis-a-vis guidelines laid down for the Arjuna award," Milkha wrote in the letter.

Declining to name the 'non-deserving' awardees in the list, he said even those who participated in kho kho, swimming and basketball, are being awarded.

"The prestige of the award has gone down. I will get a bad name if I accept it," Milkha said, adding, "it is surprising that organisers of Asian and other games are also being included in the awardees list."

The complete list of awardees:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Pulella Gopichand (badminton).
Dronacharya award: Gurdial Singh Bhangu (hockey), Hansa Sharma (weightlifting), Phadke Gopal Purushottam (kho-kho), S M Arif (badminton), Bhupender Dhawan (powerlifting).
Arjuna award: K M Beenamol (athletics), Venkatesh Prasad (cricket), Baljit Singh Saini, Tingonleima Chanu (hockey), Anjali Vedpathak, Abhinav Bindra (shooting), Sebastian Xavier, J Abhijith (swimming), Randhir Singh, Kripa Shankar Patel (wrestling), George Thomas (badminton), C Honnapa (kabaddi), S Vijayalakshmi (chess), Sanamacha Chanu (weightlifting).
Handicapped: Yadvendra Vashishtha (athletics), Vijay Bhalachandra Munishwar (athletics and powerlifting).
Lifetime: Kalpana Debnath (gymnastics), Capt R S Bhola, Balkishen Singh, Jalaluddin Rizvi, Madhu Yadav (hockey), Gurbir Singh Sandhu (shooting), K D Jadhav, Naresh Kumar (wrestling), Milkha Singh, Rachna Govil, Vijayamala Bhanot (athletics), Akhtar Ali (tennis), P V Ramana (volleyball) and Surender Singh Kanwasi (rowing).
Handicapped: Joginder Singh Bedi (athletics).

Earlier reports
Now, Milkha hits back at Bharti
Uma Bharati slams Milkha Singh

Related feature
Milkha Singh on the race of his life

Mail Sports Editor