As the Narendra Modi government announced on Friday that it would rename the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, India’s highest sporting honour, after Dhyan Chand, some social media users pointed out that an award in the name of the hockey legend already exists.
The Dhyan Chand Award for Life-time Achievement in Sports and Games was introduced in 2016. It honours Indians who have contributed to sports by their performance and continue to help promote sports even after their retirement from active sporting careers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Friday said that he had been receiving requests from people across the country to rename the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. “Respecting their sentiment, the Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award,” he said in a tweet.
“Major Dhyan Chand was among India’s foremost sportspersons who brought honour and pride for India,” Modi had added. “It is fitting that our nation’s highest sporting honour will be named after him.”
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, which will now be referred to as the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, recognises sportspersons who have excelled at the international level over a period of four years. It carries a cash reward of Rs 25 lakh.
The already-existing Dhyan Chand Award for Life-time Achievement carries Rs 5 lakh. Both the awards are granted annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Social media users pointed out that having two sporting awards in the country named after the same person could lead to confusion.
“So just for the record, there are now two Dhyan Chand sports achievement awards,” notes Suhasini Haider, The Hindu’s National Editor and Diplomatic Affairs Editor.
“How logical is it to have two awards named after a same person?” journalist Alok Deshpande tweeted. “Correct me if I am wrong.”
Author Salil Tripathi tweeted, “Given the fiasco of two Dhyan Chand Awards in India, it is clear that the aim of the announcement today was not to honour Dhyan Chand, but to dishonour Rajiv Gandhi. Somebody wasn’t paying attention.”
Others supported the decision. “We can have billions of stadiums named after Nehru-Gandhi but can’t have two awards named after Dhyan Chand?” a Twitter user named Raju Das said. “The existing one is lifetime achievement award anyway.”
After Modi’s announcement, Congress leaders highlighted that the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera in Ahmedabad was renamed the Narendra Modi Stadium in February.
“I hope the Government will also award the Bharat Ratna to Major Dhyanchand and rename Narendra Modi stadium to its original Sardar Patel Stadium,” Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said.
Congress General Secretary Randeep Surejewala welcomed the decision to rename the award after Chand but criticised Modi’s politics. “We sincerely hope Modi ji should not have used his myopic political motives to drag the name of a celebrated player like Major Dhyan Chand,” he said, according to PTI.