New Delhi: The Sports Ministry has dropped para-sports coach Satyanarayana from the list of this year's Dronacharya awardees due to a criminal case pending against him, but made no changes to the names recommended for the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards.
The decision means that tennis player Rohan Bopanna and weightlifter Sanjita Chanu have not been added to the list of Arjuna awardees. "Yes, we have chucked off the name of Satyanarayana since he has a case pending against him," a Sports Ministry official told PTI, referring to a defamation case against the coach.
Satyanarayana has coached Mariyappan Thangavelu, who won a gold in Rio Paralympics and who is one among those recommended for the Arjuna Award this year. It has been learnt that several people had raised objections when Satyanarayana's name was recommended for Dronacharya Award.
"We have kept all other names," added the official. The mails were sent out to the award winners last night after Sports Minister Vijay Goel cleared the file. The selection panel appointed by the Ministry had recommended 17 names, including two para-athletes, for Arjuna Awards and nominated former hockey player Sardar Singh and Rio Paralympics gold medallist Devendra Jhajharia for Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour in the country.
Thus, the ministry has chosen to maintain the sanctity of its panel, headed by Justice (retd) C K Thakkar, even as there is a precedence of names being added to the list by the sports minister.
Goel had the discretion to add names to the list but he chose to approve the recommendations of the panel. There was a request from his own BJP colleague and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to add the name of Deepa Malik for Khel Ratna, but the ministry stuck to the recommendations of the panel.
There was a debate if Rohan Bopanna, whose nomination by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) reached ministry late, should be added to the list considering that his achievements were comparatively bigger than Saketh Myneni who was recommended for this year's Arjuna Award.
The tennis fraternity is glad that Myneni, who won a gold and silver at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, has got the honour but strongly felt that Bopanna should have been there ahead of any other tennis player.
Bopanna had become the country's only fourth tennis player to win a Grand Slam when he clinched the French Open mixed doubles title with Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski.
He had finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics and there were a few in the ministry who felt that if Dipa Karmakar can be given Khel Ratna for a fourth place finish in the Rio Games, Bopanna could also have been considered for the honour.
A few others, though, felt that a mixed doubles could not be compared with Karmakar's solo show in gymnastics. Their logic was that 24-year-old Karmakar has actually changed the profile of the sport of gymnastics in India with her superlative show.
Some say that not playing Incheon Asian Games has cost Bopanna dear since his preference to play in an ATP World Tour event has not been received well in the ministry.
AITA did not send his nomination, assuming that he does not fit in the criteria since he has not won medals at any multi-sporting event while representing the country, robbing him of a chance to get the award.
But Bopanna is also to be blamed since he did not need to depend on AITA for his nomination. He had the option of sending his application to the ministry directly but perhaps it did not strike him that he could get it.
It's only after he won the French Open he got into the act and sent his application and even had a meeting with the Sports Minister. Goel had never promised Bopanna the award but it was widely perceived that his meeting with the minister has sealed the deal.
A Grand Slam title is considered equal to a gold in World Championships and it should make him eligible next year. The Indian Weightlifting Federation had also requested to add Chanu's name in the Arjuna list, saying that she meets the criteria and has 45 points, courtesy gold medals at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Championships, plus a bronze at the Asian Championships.
However, a member of the selection committee told PTI, "Points was not the sole criteria. If points were the only criteria, then neither S S P Chawrasia nor Cheteshwar Pujara nor Harmanpreet Kaur would have got it. "The achievements were looked at in a holistic perspective. Sanjita has not done anything after the CWG. She did not make even the World Championships."