Having had a rather disappointing start to her new year, the sun has finally shone over Saina Nehwal, India’s ace shuttler. Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, at last, decided to recommend the Olympic Bronze medalist, Saina Nehwal for the prestigious Padma Bhushan Award for 2015. However, this proposal to honour her achievements with the nation’s third highest civilian award has had its fair share of controversies. Initially, the Sports Ministry of India (SAI) favored Sushil Kumar, overlooking Badminton Association of India’s (BAI) suggestion made in August 2014 of considering Saina’s achievements worthy of the award. The go-getter that she is, Saina made sure that she expressed her discontent over the Padma award snub publicly. She took to Twitter and made her displeasure felt.
Lashing out on the micro blogging site, Nehwal sent tweet after tweet in an attempt to articulate her disappointment and question SAI’s decision. On January 5, 2015, Saina wrote, “I saw the news in Times of India about the Padma awards and I was really sad to see that my name was not sent to Ministry of home affairs.” Continuing to express her displeasure, she added, “I heard that Sushil Kumar’s name was sent for Padma award as a special case, while my name was not sent to Ministry of home affairs by sports ministry. The ministry guideline says that there needs to be a gap of five years between two Padma awards. So if they can send his name, why they didn’t recommend my name as I have completed the five years gap. I felt bad about it.” According to her statement, Saina’s application for recommendation had been rejected last year on the grounds that she had to complete five years before receiving the second Padma award. As she was accredited with the Padma Shri Award in 2010, she applied for the Padma Bhushan Award for 2015 as she accomplished the eligibility criteria laid down by SAI.
Questioning this criterion, Saina brought into forefront the fact that Sushil Kumar had received his Padma Shri back in 2011, thereby would complete the five years gap only in 2016. Responding to Saina’s questions, Sonowal said that the ministry had the power to relax the rules in “highly deserving” cases adding that “Sushil Kumar, a two times Olympian and medal winner, was recommended on merit. Nothing more should be read into it.” Talking of merit, the lady brought numerous laurels to the nation winning accolades such as the Commonwealth Games gold medal, first Olympic medal for badminton, three titles- India Open, Australia Open and China Open as well as the bronze in Asian Games. In 2014, she began the year as World No. 9 but managed to climb up to number 4 in the rankings. “I spoke to the higher officials yesterday. They said Sushil’s name has already gone. I can only request them to look into it. If we both can win that would be really good. If his name has been sent as a special case then why my name has not been sent because even if they go by the rules, my name should be sent,” said the star badminton player.
Sonowal, in defense to Nehwal’s prying questions revealed that the ministry received her nomination from BAI only on January 3, 2015 and not prior to that. The young badminton player has made India proud and the Ministry should take proper care in encouraging the rising stars of the nation, steering clear from such controversies. Well, all said and done, it is better late than never, right?
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