The Union Sports Ministry held a function here to felicitate Olympians, Paralympians and other international winners in the past four years. But while the official machinery was in full attendance, sadly, a majority of those being honoured were absent.

The felicitation was presided over by Sports Minister Jitendra Singh and organised by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

Those felicitated included boxers Vijender Singh and Devendro Singh, shooters Heena Sidhu, Joydeep Karmakar and Ronjan Sodhi, athletes Tintu Luka and K.T. Irfan and discus throwers Krishna Poonia and Vikas Gowda. Of these, only Devendro, Krishna Poonia, Joydeep and Irfan were present.

Many absentees

Medal winners across sports in international events from 2009-2012 were also given cash prizes. However, of a total of 111 sportspersons, only 55 turned up to receive the awards.

“The function had to be organised based on the sports minister’s availability. Since he was free only today, we had to do it now,” said a ministry official. “This function is unique for the fact that it recognises those athletes who narrowly missed out on a medal at the Olympics but are not short of talent. This is an attempt to give them that little extra motivation,” Jitendra Singh said.

However, for a lot of the awardees, it was better late than never.

Farman Basha, who finished fifth at the London Paralympics in powerlifting, was satisfied with the cash award but felt the government needed to do more.

“The cash award is welcome. But if there was a provision by the government to help Paralympians get jobs, as it happens with Olympians, it will be a bigger help for us,” he said.

Support structure

The sports minister said attempts were being made to address the concerns of the players.

“I am already in the process of finalising a framework which will have all the stakeholders, including the SAI, the various regional centres, the sports ministry and the corporate sector to ensure a complete support structure for the Indian sportspersons, both financial and infrastructural,” he said.

Twelve Olympians and seven Paralympians, who had finished fourth to 12th in London, were presented 10 lakh rupees each.

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