Athletics legend Milkha Singh had the courage to speak up against the system when his name was included in the list of Arjuna Award for lifetime contribution to sports in 2001.

“It was strange that Milkha’s name was included in the list of awardees. He should have been awarded way back in the early 1960s when he was an active athlete and not the lifetime achievements award in 2001. The whole episode was a big mistake on the part of the sports ministry,” recalls Bahadur Singh, the 1982 Asian Games shot put champion.

“There was a major controversy as the name of Milkha, the elderly statesman in sports, was listed along with some of the athletes whose profile wasn’t impressive,” said the former athletics chief coach.

The prestigious Arjuna Award was instituted in 1961 to honour outstanding sportspersons. In the first batch of 20 Arjuna Awardees, decathlete and hurdler Gurbachan Singh Randhawa was received the prestigious award in athletics discipline.

While Milkha was awarded the Padma Shri in 1959, the sports ministry included his name in the 2001 list of the Arjuna Award for lifetime achievements in sports, introduced in 1995.

The sports ministry introduced the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 1991. It is presented annually for the best performance of the year to an individual player.



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