Ashok Kumar: ‘Arjuna awards have been devalued’

The former World Cup hockey winner, along with other sportsmen who received the honour in the past, slam the distribution of the award.

India hockey player S.V Sunil (in action) is one of the Arjuna award winners in 2017.   -  AP

Years after earning the honour, some Arjuna Awardees expressed their anguish at the manner in which the coveted award was being “distributed.”

At an event held to launch an NGO – Sports: A way of Life – founded by Kanishka Pandey, some celebrated sportsmen dug into the past to share their experience to take Indian sport forward but did not hide their reservations at the flippant manner in which the National sports awards were being bestowed in recent times.

World Cup hockey winner Ashok Kumar said, “The awards have been devalued. Why do you have to give it annually if there are no deserving candidates. Is it necessary? We have to put value to the honour but sadly that is not the case now. Sportsmen have been clamouring for these awards because they have to apply for the honours. How can I demand an award?”

The former hockey star advocated a change in the norms. “I strongly feel that only medallists at the Asian Games, Olympics and World Championships should be considered for the Arjuna Award.”

Middle distance runner Sriram Singh, a softly-spoken athlete, agreed with Kumar. “You have to set strict qualifying standard in order to put high value to the award. When the standards are high, you would get only deserving candidates. In my time, you had to be best to get the Arjuna Award,” said Sriram.

In the opinion of former India hockey captain Zafar Iqbal, the awards were a way of not only honouring the sportsmen, but also motivating them. “When you compete, you want to win. With the win, if the nation honours you with an award, it is like icing on the cake. The number 15 for Arjuna Award is keeping in mind the size of the country. I don’t know if the Awards have been devalued.”