Khel Ratna named after Dhyan Chand

Change suggested in 2019 was ‘Bhartiya Khel Ratna’

August 06, 2021 06:01 pm | Updated November 22, 2021 09:51 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala. File

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala. File

The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna stands renamed as the “Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter on Friday to announce the change of name in honour of the hockey wizard.

“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!” read Mr. Modi’s tweet.

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

Greatest hockey player

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

Though Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala welcomed the move to rename the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards in the memory of the legendary hockey player, he accused the Prime Minister of “petty politics” and challenged the Union government to rename stadia that have been named after BJP politicians, including the Narendra Modi stadium in Gujarat and the Arun Jaitley stadium in Delhi.

“We sincerely hope that Modi ji should have not used his myopic political motives to drag a celebrated player like Major Dhyan Chand. Rajiv Gandhi ji doesn’t need any awards for recognition. He is known for his sacrifice and the ideas that helped India transform into the 21st century,” Mr. Surjewala said.

He said from now on, various stadia should be named after celebrated players like P.T. Usha, Milkha Singh, Mary Kom, Abhinav Bindra, Sachin Tendulkar, Pullela Gopichand, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sania Mirza and Leander Paes, among others.

“Now that a new beginning has been made, Modi ji will announce changing the name of the Narendra Modi stadium and the Arun Jaitley stadium by naming them after Milkha Singh, Sunil Gavaskar and many, many others,” the Congress leader said.

He also accused the government of reducing the sports Budget by ₹230 crore in an Olympic Games year.

Past two years

However, discussions on renaming the Khel Ratna awards have been on at least for the past two years. The change of name 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 top of the list was the change of names of sports schemes, if needed.

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”.

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