Sports ministry remains firm, no Khel Ratna for Poonia

New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) Union Sports Minister Jitendra Singh found time from his multifarious responsibilities to clear the national sports awards file Thursday morning and an official announcement in this regard was expected later in the day.

Importantly, and contrary to speculation, there are no changes in the list finalised by the committee headed by former world billiards champion Michael Ferreira.

The decision puts to rest all speculation that the minister had asked the awards committee to reconsider its recommendation in favour of shooter Ronjan Sodhi for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and consider, instead or along with, athlete Krishna Poonia for the award .

A senior official in the ministry told IANS that no changes have been effected in the recommendations made earlier this month by the committee. The official said the announcement was delayed since a couple of sports persons, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Poonia and paralympian H.N. Girisha, had conveyed their grievances to the sports ministry after they were left out.

"We looked into their grievances and that was the reason why we delayed the announcement of the awards. But we found that only one sportsperson can get the award. There are no changes in the recommendations made by the committee and we will announce it today (Thursday)," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The awards were to be announced Monday, but the sports minister was apparently busy with parliament's monsoon session and also the party affairs he has been entrusted by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and could not clear the file.

The delay led to lot of bad blood between the award winner and the other claimant -- some of the committee members were also dragged into the unseemly media debate.

Two members of the committee were livid that it has become a fashion for athletes to question the decisions taken by eminent sports persons after taking into account all the available material of a claimant.

Both discounted the speculative media stories, giving the sequence of events before deciding on the Khel Ratna award. They said all names were on the table when they met to take the decision.

Both insisted that no member should divulge what transpired at the meeting when everything discussed or spoken there was confidential.

"The discussions are healthy and every member applies his or her mind and there could be even vehement disagreements. But what is important is the decision taken at the end of it all," one member told IANS refusing to divulge the nature of deliberations at the meeting.

"The decision has been taken and there has to be some sanctity about it. It is ridiculous for anyone to speculate or try to reopen the issue just because someone doesn't like it."

Another highly respected member of the committee felt that the media, too, should not read too much into the deliberations once a decision is taken. It doesn't matter what a particular individual said at the meeting.

"It doesn't matter what a member said at the meeting, ultimately the decision taken is what matters, not who thundered or who dissented. It is akin to a cabinet decision, not what transpired at the discussions stage," the member said.

Double-trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi has been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. Cricketer Virat Kohli is one of the 14 chosen for the Arjuna Award.

Full award list (Likely):

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Ronjan Sodhi

Arjuna Awards:

Chekrovolu Swuro (Archery)

Renjith Maheshwary (Athletics)

P.V. Sindhu (Badminton)

Kavita Chahal (Boxing)

Rupesh Shah (Snooker and Billiards)

Virat Kohli (Cricket)

Abhijeet Gupta (Chess)

Gaganjeet Bhullar (Golf)

Saba Anjum (Hockey)

Rajkumari Rathore (Shooting)

Joshna Chinappa (Squash)

Neha Rathi (Wrestling)

Dharmender Dalal (Wrestling)

Amit Kumar Saroha (Athletics)

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