Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar said it would have been a “disappointing and wrong decision" on the part of the government if the Home Ministry officials had their way in not awarding the India's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna to sportspersons.
According to a media report, file notings, accessed through RTI, revealed that the ministry was initially not in favour of widening the scope of Bharat Ratna fearing that it would open floodgates for sportspersons and other vocations like social work, trade and industry as well.
In its note, a home ministry official argued for keeping the norms unchanged.
"No Bharat Ratna for sportspersons would have been a wrong decision on the part of the union government. It would have hurt the feelings of our athletes who put their blood, sweat and tears," said Sushil on the sidelines of a felicitation function.
"The decision would have been a big disappointment for us. We athletes are deserving candidates for Bharat Ratna," he added.
Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and Samajwadi Party MP Brij Bhushan Sharan said had it been done by the home ministry, he would have raised the issue in the Parliament.
"It would have been a sad day for the Indian sport. Such revelation has hurt the feelings of the athletes. It's disappointing to hear this and we condemn such act by the ministry," he said.
Image: Sushil Kumar
Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images