Former director of Arjuna Awardees Association, Yashwant Singh, looks back at the times

His day was made when Leo Pinto, at the age of 96, remembered to wish Yashwant Singh of Alwar, “Many happy returns of the day.” As Yashwant Singh said, “He made my day. I felt so happy. There was a sense of achievement.” Why not? If Pinto made Yashwant’s day, so did the 75-year-old veteran for many years, bringing happiness to India’s sports heroes, serving them selflessly.

An upright sports official, Yashwant Singh is respected for his silent contribution to sportsmen from the past. His job is to take up the grievances of Arjuna Awardees with the Government departments. The Indian Olympic Association has often recorded his “yeoman service” without expecting “name and fame.” This unsung work by Yashwant has remained so because the man loves to serve silently.

From getting the cheque payments to renewal of their railway passes of every Arjuna awardee is Yashwant’s responsibility. Nothing perturbs him more than a sports hero struggling to meet medical needs. “My heart bleeds when I learn a sportsman is suffering from lack of attention,” says Yashwant, former director of Arjuna Awardees Association.

In a splendid display of honorary contribution to sport, Yashwant served the cause of needy sportsmen for years. He would take up their cases and ensure they got the monetary benefits from the Government. Always a strong advocate of education in sports, he lamented the fact that the system was being corrupted by self-promoting officials.

“Awareness of their rights among sportsmen is negligible. I always believed in providing certain standard of coaching and facilities when I was at the DLTA (Delhi Lawn Tennis Association) and with the Polo Association. Sportsmen have to be treated with respect and sometimes need to be pampered too. They are special people because of what they achieve for the country.”

Yashwant’s job was quite challenging. Taking up the pension cases of sportsmen and handling them as top priority. The Ministry of Sports officials would act speedily on his word. As a measure of his honesty, he never earned a penny from this service to sport and never accepted a foreign trip that was often offered. “I would tell them, throw me out the moment they suspect I have misused my authority.”

Letters of appreciation and gratitude keep pouring even now, a good one year after Yashwant relinquished office. He decided not to continue once Randhir Singh disassociated with all activities concerning Indian Olympic Association. “I believe in loyalty,” he says in a polite message to the young generation. He always took pride in being a friend of sportsmen. They too revere him as an affectionate father-figure that he has been to them.