Para Badminton Champion receives Arjuna Award in closed room after two years

Sonipat: Para Badminton Champion, Raj Kumar finally got the country’s prestigious Arjuna Award which he so rightfully deserved. This should have been an occasion to celebrate for him, but it wasn’t. Unlike others, he did not receive the award from the President amid loud cheering but in a closed room after the completion of some official formalities.

Struggle to claim the award

Kumar had to make several trips to the courts over a period of two years to claim his right. He had to convince the nation that he deserved the award and that he was wrongly and unjustly denied the honour.

After being nominated for the awards and having followed the objective criteria for evaluating a sportsperson, he was awarded 72.5 out 80, which was the highest for any sportsman in the field of para sports. But the award was instead given to another physically challenged athlete who had scored 50 out 80.

But since the selection committee had first selected the sports disciplines and decided that sportsmen who excel in those disciplines will only be awarded, Kumar was not given the honour.

The Delhi High Court recently called the Arjuna Award selection committee’s decision to not award 2015 Para Badminton Champion, Raj Kumar with the honour, as ‘unsustainable’ as the committee is “required to select sports-persons and not disciplines.”

‘People taunted me as a child’

Champion Rajkumar said that when he was a child, people taunted him on account of his broken hand. But he never lost self-confidence and had full faith in his capabilities. He became the world champion in para badminton thrice, and won medals for the country in Asian Para Games, but was not given Arjuna Award in 2016 or 2017.

Raj Kumar is now busy preparing for the Asian Para Games which starts in October. He said he had the highest points for Arjuna Award but was denied the honour. He appealed to all — from sports officer to sports ministers. “But there was no hearing. Finally I approached the Delhi High Court,” he said.

(Story by Anil Bansal)