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|August 20, 2001||
Uma Bharati denies PMO interference
Sports Minister Uma Bharti on Monday denied that the Prime Minister's Office had influenced the choice of this year's winners of the Arjuna and other sports awards.
"Reports that the PMO has interfered in deciding the awardees are not correct," she told Parliament.
This year's Arjuna awardees' list has come in for severe criticism from many well-known former athletes and experts, after legendary athlete Milkha Singh declined to accept it saying that it had come 40 years too late.
Milkha, who narrowly missed the 400 metres bronze medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics, said politicians and even the office of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had influenced the awards.
Bharati said Milkha Singh would not be pressurised to accept the country's highest sports prize. "It is his decision not to accept the award, and he cannot be forced to accept it."
Milkha Singh said he should have been given a higher honour since he had already received the Padma Shri, the country's fourth highest civilian award.
"I was expecting Padma Bhushan (the third highest award)," he had told IANS after the Arjuna awards were announced on August 2.
The Arjuna awards, instituted in 1961, are presented for excellence in sports every year by the President of India on August 29, which also is the birthday of India's hockey wizard Dhyan Chand.
Indo-Asian News Service
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