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Promise for more in poll time

- Biju Patnaik State Sports Awards on hold for three years

Bhubaneswar, April 27: In the heat of the poll campaign, the BJD promised to launch new schemes for sportspersons, but the party is oblivious that an existing set of sports awards named after former chief minister Biju Patnaik has not been handed over for the past three years.

Every year, the sports and youth services department presents the Biju Patnaik State Sports Awards to eminent present and former sportspersons, a coach and a sports journalist. However, no one has been awarded for the past three years — 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The awards that were instituted in 2001-2002 include a cash prize of Rs 1.5 lakh for lifetime achievement, Rs 1 lakh for sportsperson of the year, Rs 50,000 for outstanding coach and Rs 30,000 for sports journalist. Each awardee is also presented with a silver statuette, scroll of honour, blazer and tie.

However, ever since its inception the awards ceremony has been hosted irregularly. On most occasions, it has been hosted once in three years to give away all pending awards. The last time when the awards ceremony was held was in March 2011 and awards till 2009 were handed over.

Veteran athlete Usha Rani Mishra, long-jumper Hemanta Kumar Patel and marathon runner Bibekananda Tripathy received the lifetime achievement awards for 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively. Chess player Padmini Rout received the 2007 award for outstanding performance, while the winner of the same honour for 2008 was athlete Srabani Nanda. However, the delay in honouring an outstanding sportsperson defeats the award’s objective of encouraging sportspersons who have excelled in their fields that year.

Himself a sportsperson, Biju Patnaik would surely not have been proud to know the status of the awards named after him. During last year’s presentation of annual incentives to sportspersons of the state, former Indian hockey captain Dilip Tirkey had said that until the initiatives to encourage players were made regular, they lose their significance.

Earlier this week, a meeting of a special committee that examines and recommends names for the awards was held. The committee members present at the meeting included footballer Shradhanjali Samantray, cyclist Minati Mohapatra, former East Coast Railway Sports Association president D.K. Samantaray and a senior sports journalist.

Former director-general of police Gopal Chandra Nanda had chaired the meeting. However, hockey player Lazarus Barla and Odisha Cricket Association secretary Ashirbad Behera, who are members of the committee, skipped the meeting.

A member of the committee, which includes sportspersons and officials of the sports department, said there were not enough applications for the awards from deserving members of the sports fraternity. Queried about the dearth of applicants, he said that rules did not allow honouring competent sportsperson if they did not have certificates from recognised institutes. This has led to sportspersons who have not much to show on the field to apply as they have certificates that it more important than individual performance.

“Time and again we have requested the department to make amendments to the rules so that deserving sportspersons receive the awards. But no attention has been paid to our plea. Moreover, several documents and records required to analyse the performances are missing. When committee members and department officials disagree on such a crucial issue, it is difficult to recommend names that soon,” said a member on condition of anonymity.

However, officials of the sports department seem ignorant of the situation. “We held a preliminary meeting and in one or two more sittings things will be finalised. Tentatively, we are aiming to host the award ceremony on August 29,” said Gyana Ranjan Parida, senior official of the sports department.