Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to be renamed after Major Dhyan Chand

In 2019, the Committee for review of Sports Awards and Special (Cash) Award Scheme had recommended that the award should be renamed as “Bhartiya Khel Ratna”.

President Ram Nath Kovind conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award upon Deepa Malik, at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi in 2019.   -  PTI

The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna stands renamed as Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter on Friday to announce the change of name in the honour of the hockey wizard.

His tweet read, “I have been getting many requests from citizens across India to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dhyan Chand. I thank them for their views. Respecting their sentiment, the Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award!”

The timing of the announcement is being seen to be in-sync with the prevailing sentiments following the performances of the men and women hockey teams in the Tokyo Olympics.

The men’s hockey team ended a 41-year wait for an Olympic medal by taking the third spot. The women’s team finished fourth after some heart-winning performances, including the stunning victory over former champion Australia.

Dhyan Chand, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, is considered the country’s greatest hockey player. His birthday, on August 29, marks the National Sports Day when the National Sports Awards are presented each year.

In fact, the change of name for Khel Ratna was suggested by the Committee for review of Sports Awards and Special (Cash) Award Scheme, constituted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in February 2019.

The committee under Justice (retd.) Indermeet Kaur Kochar consisted of members like Shiva Keshavan. Ashwini Nachappa, Mohandas Pai, Rajesh Kalra and S. P. S. Tomar (Deputy Secretary in the Sports Ministry and in-charge of Sports Awards). Among the six-point terms of reference assigned to the Committee, on the top of the list was the change of names of the sports schemes, if needed.

READ: Indian hockey ends 41-year wait for Olympic medal

Following deliberations, the Committee noted that “Rajiv Gandhi has not been directly associated with sports, but the award is being given carrying his name for the last 26 years. Bhartiya Khel Ratna would be more appropriate.”

Eventually, it was unanimously decided that “there is no need for changing the names of the schemes of Sports Awards at this juncture.”

The terms of reference also included increase and decrease in the amount of award money and the number of awards per year. It was recommended to give away amount of awards money as under: Khel Ratna: Rs. 10 lakh; Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand Award: Rs. 7.50 lakh each.

Last year, then Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju raised the amount from Rs. 7.5 to Rs. 25 lakh for the Khel Ratna awardees. For Arjuna awardees and Dronacharya awardees (lifetime), it was Rs. 15 lakh, a raise of Rs. 10 lakh. Dronacharya (Regular) awardees and Dhyan Chand awardees were raised to Rs. 10 lakh from Rs. 5 lakh.

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