New Delhi: The Sports Ministry has written to the Prime Minister’s Office, requesting Bharat Ratna for the late Dhyan Chand in what can considered be its latest push to bestow the hockey legend with India’s highest civilian honour.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel confirmed that he has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Yes, we have written to the Prime Minister about Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand. Conferring the honour posthumously will be a fitting tribute to his exceptional service to the country,” said Goel.
It is not the first time that the Ministry has sought Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand, who helped India win three gold medals at the Olympics (1928, 1932, and 1936). During the UPA rule in 2013, the Sports Ministry had chosen the hockey wizard for the honour over cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar. However in the same year, it was eventually announced that Tendulkar will be the first sportsperson to receive the award, hours after he ended his illustrious international career.
Asked whether Dhyan Chand, who passed away in 1979, should have got Bharat Ratna before Tendulkar, Goel said: “I would not want to get into this and it is not fair to comment about sportspersons of such legendary stature.
“You can’t measure Dhyan Chand’s achievements with any award. He is beyond that.
“As I said, Prime Minister will take the final call on this subject. He wants India to emerge as a sporting power and that is why he has been giving a lot of emphasis to sports.
“We want him to consider this. We feel Bharat Ratna to Dhyan Chand will not only give a huge boost to Indian hockey but also to other sports,” said Goel.
The Ministry decided to write to the Prime Minister earlier this week. Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar and other former players have been demanding Bharat Ratna for their hockey hero for years. Last year, former India captains Ashok Kumar, Ajit Pal Singh, Zafar Iqbal, Dilip Tirkey were among a 100 former players who sat on a protest on Dhyan Chand being repeatedly ignored.
Even in 2011, government did not consider the plea of 82 members of parliament who backed Dhyan Chand for the recognition. ‘The Wizard’ is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time and singlehandedly popularised the game in India.
His birthday, August 29, is celebrated as the National Sports Day when the country’s top athletes are awarded by the President of India.