New Delhi: Ignored for this year's Khel Ratna award, Rio Paralympics silver-medallist Deepa Malik and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar have requested the Sports Ministry to reconsider her case but the government is unlikely to accept their "appeal".
The award selection panel has recommended javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, the gold medal winner at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, and former hockey captain Sardar Singh for Khel Ratna.
In a letter, dated August 16, Khattar wrote, "I am of the considered opinion that prestigious Khel Ratna award should be conferred on Deepa Malik. I therefore request to you to kindly consider her name for Khel Ratna."
Malik, the first Indian woman athlete to win a medal at the Paralympics, wrote an e-mail to the Sports Minister Vijay Goel on August 7, making a similar appeal and also sought an appointment with him.
"I felt that there has been an oversight. Where's the deficiency. Do I need to win one more medal in 2020 Games at the age of 50 to be given this award," Malik said and dismissed suggestions that she was "lobbying" for the award.
"There is a precedence that Khel Ratna can be given to multiple people in an Olympic year. My medal came 15 days after the Khel Ratna was given on August 29, 2016 to the other winners. It's a clear case of oversight.
"And I am not lobbying for it. Lobbying is when you try to influence people before the committee sits and decide. When I found my name is not there, then I wrote to the ministry, it's an appeal. I have got the backing of my state CM. Haryana is a sports conscious state. He (CM) also felt that I have been overlooked," Malik said.
One of the selection committee members said it was not possible to include all medal winners of the Rio Paralympics.
"Look, Mariyappan Thangavelu had also won gold in Rio but still not chosen for Khel Ratna, he was given Arjuna. For Jhajharia, it was his second Paralympics gold, we could not ignore him," a member of the committee said on condition of anonymity.
The Sports Ministry is yet to approve the list of awardees but is unlikely to make any change.
"We want to stick to what the panel has recommended. We will make public the names of the award winners very soon," said a Sports ministry official.
When the next edition of Paralympics is held, Deepa Malik's shot put event will not be a part of the roster in the F53 category. Discus throw will be the main discipline.
"So, do I need to learn discus throw to win another medal and be considered again? I had a spinal injury due to which I can't rotate my lower body to throw a discus. That's why I have always practiced Javelin throw and shot put. I don't have the torso balance and the muscles required to throw discus are not connected with my brain anymore," she explained her predicament.
"Can a Vijender Singh or a Sushil Kumar now compete in swimming or gymnastics? I come from a disciplined military family. I have not broken ethics, it's my democratic right to express my views and write to the country's sports minister," Mailk, winner of 18 international medals, said.