Odisha News Insight

Bharat Ratna still eludes Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand

Dhyan-Chand2Editor’s Desk: Neither the UPA nor the NDA bothered to bestow India’s highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna on Hockey Wizard Major Dhyan Chand. They paid them tribute on his birth and death anniversaries and talked high about him. The successive governments celebrate August 29 – his Birthday as the National Sports Day, but when it comes to Bharat Ratna, all remain silent.

To the utter dismay of millions of sports lovers in the country, it came to light that the Manmohan Singh led UPA II Government had belittled the achievements of Hockey Legend Major Dhyan Chand by striking his name off the list of ‘Bharat Ratna’ at the eleventh hour to accommodate master blaster Sachin Tendulkar on the day of his retirement. The PMO believed that to be a masterstroke, keeping in view the 2014 polls. However, it backfired.

On July 16 2013, then Sports Minister Jitendra Singh recommended Dhyan Chand’s name for the ‘Bharat Ratna’. Former PM Manmohan Singh acknowledged it nine days later. The internal PMO note reveals Dhyan Chand was the only sportsperson in the list till early August 2013. But, things took a dramatic shape on November 14 after Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from Test cricket.

The PMO acted in a hurry and asked the Sports Ministry to send the bio-data of Sachin Tendulkar on the same day. The desperate UPA Government got the approval for scientist CNR Rao and Sachin Tendulkar for the Bharat Ratna from the Election Commission on the same day. As Sachin played his last international cricket innings on November 14, the government conferred the coveted honour on him hours later to gain pure political mileage.

Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar, who too played for India, has expressed his disappointment over this matter. “It is a matter of great shame and disappointment that Dhyan Chand’s name was excluded and Sachin Tendulkar’s name was brought forward at the last minute. It was a political game against a player like Dhyan Chand, who ruled the hearts of millions of sports lovers in the country,” he said.

Dhyan Chand, the greatest field Hockey player of all-time, is most remembered for his extraordinary goal-scoring feats. He won three Olympic gold medals (1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles and 1936 Berlin) during the golden era of Indian Hockey. He was known as ‘The Wizard’. Dhyan Chand and his team had impressed Adolf Hitler, when they dared to hoist the ‘Tricolour’ of the Indian National Congress at the final match between India and Germany in 1936 Berlin Olympics. India won that match 8-1 to win the Gold. The British Government wanted to act against Dhyan Chand, but Hitler personally intervened to diffuse the crisis.

Dhyan-Chand-1During his last days, the Hockey Legend was completely snubbed by the respective governments of India. Although he retired from the Indian Army in 1956 at the age of 51, Dhyan Chand continued to be associated with Indian Hockey in many ways. He died on December 3, 1979 at the AIIMS, New Delhi. He was cremated at the Jhansi Heroes ground in Jhansi although the clearance was delayed due to some hurdles. The Punjab Regiment, for which he worked, accorded him full military honours.

Although India’s highest award for lifetime achievement in Sports (Dhyan Chand Award) is named after the legend and his birthday (August 29) is being celebrated as the National Sports Day in India, the UPA Government dared to snub him and stroke his name off the list to confer ‘Bharat Ratna’ on Sachin Tendulkar. This is the irony of Indian Sports and Indian Politics.

The damage cannot be undone. But, it was definitely expected that the Modi Government would announce ‘Bharat Ratna’ for Major Dhyan Chan on the eve of the National Sports Day on August 29, 2014 and give him the honour, which has been due for long. But, that did not happen. The NDA Government failed to honour Dhyan Chand even though it got the chance twice – in 2014 and 2015. Is the government serious about honouring Dhyan Chand? Will he really get ‘Bharat Ratna’ ever? It’s a question being asked by all sports lovers, but there is no answer.

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