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|June 30, 2000||
Dhanraj Pillay bags Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna
For the first time since the inception of the prestigious Arjuna awards, no cricketer figures in the list of awardees, announced in Delhi on Friday.
Versatile hockey forward Dhanraj Pillay has been selected for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, while 23 sports persons, including eight in the lifetime achievement category, have been picked for the Arjuna award. Three coaches have been named for the Dronacharya award.
The Arjuna awardees have been divided into two categories - current and lifetime.
Ace shuttler Pullela Gopichand, golfer Chiranjeev Milkha Singh, swimmer Nisha Millet and current hockey captain Ramandeep Singh are among those who will be honoured with the Arjuna award.
Veteran V J Phillips (hockey) and Praduman Singh (athletics) have been honoured in the lifetime achievers' category.
Announcing the list of awardees, Sports Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa told a crowded press conference that neither the Board of Control for Cricket in India nor any state cricket association recommended a cricketer for the awards.
"We can't force the BCCI, state associations or individuals to give the name of the player for the awards," he said.
The minister, however, added that so far 34 cricketers had received either the Arjuna award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Padma Shri or the Padma Bhushan.
He said all the awardees were picked purely on merit, and the ministry ensured that deserving sports persons of the yesteryear, who were previously denied recognition, were nominated under the lifetime achievement category.
Asked if the non-inclusion of cricketers in the awards list was due to the match-fixing allegations, the minister replied: "No, the ministry did not receive any name, so there was no question of ignoring the cricketers."
Dhindsa said his ministry is trying to evolve a system under which all sports persons of yesteryear who brought glory to the country but could not get the award due to some reasons are honoured and given recognition.
The minister informed that there were 170 names in contention for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, but Dhanraj Pillay was picked for the prestigious award as the selection committee felt the Bombay player has done yeoman service to the game and led from the front to bring laurels to the country.
Other strong contenders for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the minister said, were shooter Jaspal Rana and thrower Shakti Singh.
The recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna will receive Rs 300,000, while the Dhronacharya award carries Rs 225,000, and the Arjuna Rs 150,000.
The minister said it is after a gap of 16 years that a basketball player has been honoured with the Arjuna award.
The awards will be presented by the President of India at a function to be held at Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 29.
The award winners:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Dhanraj Pillay (hockey)
Dronacharya award: Kenneth Bosen (athletics), Hawa Singh (boxing), Ajay Sirohi (weightlifting).
Arjuna award: Gulab Chand, Sunita Rani, Gurmeet Kaur (athletics), Pullela Gopichand (badminton), Gurcharan Singh, Jitender Kumar (boxing), Ramandeep Singh (hockey), Jagjit Singh (rowing), Vivek Singh (shooting), Nisha Millet (swimming), Sukhpal Singh (volleyball), Dalbir Singh (weightlifting), Aashim Mongia (yatching) and Chiranjeev Milkha Singh (golf).
Life time achievement category: Praduman Singh (athletics), Sajjan Singh Cheema (basketball), Balbir Singh Kullar, V J Phillips, Haripal Kaushik (hockey), Tirath Raj, Balwinder Singh (kabaddi), Ashok Kumar (wrestling).
Physically handicap category: Venkata Rappa (athletics).
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