New Delhi: With another round of Padma awards set to be announced shortly, ace shuttler Saina Nehwal has already expressed discontent over the way wrestler Sushil Kumar has been recommended for Padma Bhushan award by the sports ministry.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina, who was bestowed the Khel Ratna and Padma Shri in 2010 and also received the Arjuna Award in 2009, said she was “sad” that the sports ministry felt two-time Olympic medallist Sushil deserves it more than her.
“I was really sad that my name was not sent to the ministry of home affairs by the sports ministry of India. I hope sports ministry looks into this and I will be more than happy if both me and Sushil get the award as we both won medals in 2012 Olympics,” Saina said on Saturday.
No sports ministry official offered any comment to Saina’s reaction but an insider told dna that the issue of Sushil’s ineligibility was, indeed, discussed before making it final.
As per the norms, there has to be a gap of at least five years between two Padma awards to the same person and Sushil, having got the Padma Shri in 2011, would not have been eligible for the Padma Bhushan before 2016.
“The home ministry has the prerogative to relax the rules in ‘highly deserving’ cases,” the official added. It must be mentioned here that the 24-year-old Saina’s name was rejected last year for the same reason.
“Of course, Sushil Kumar is a good friend and a great player. But, according to the policy, I am qualified for the award. BAI had sent my application in 2013, but they said five years were not completed after the Padma Shri, so we can only give it after the five years, so I again applied last year,” said Saina, adding, “I will feel proud if both of us can get the award, because we both are deserving and won the Olympic medal at the same time as well. I am hurt by the news that my name was not sent to the panel which decides the award, but of course, I would respect what the panel decides.”
After Sania expressed disappointment, Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that he wanted everyone to play for the nation as per their merits. “Want everyone to play for the nation as per their merits. My ministry will give them all the support to make them play well,” said Sonowal. Echoing similar sentiments, former sports minister MS Gill said that anyone who gives an application cannot be conferred the prestigious award. “Anyone who gives an application should not be given the Padma award, if the nation thinks you are good, award will be given,” he added.
Dhoni also in the list?
Another name which can generate controversy is that of recently retired India’s Test captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose name has also reportedly being forwarded for Padma Bhushan award, despite the fact that his name reportedly figured in the list of 13 people being probed by Justice Mukul Mudgal panel in the Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting scandal. It may be recalled that the home ministry did examine a demand in March 2014 for taking away the Padma honour conferred on Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan following a Mumbai court framing charges against him. At a time when Supreme Court is expected to deliver its verdict on IPL controversy, any adverse comments on Dhoni could put the government in a fix once again.