August 29 is National Sports Day in India. The occasion celebrates the birth of Major Dhyan Chand, the hockey wizard who put India on the global sporting map before any other sportsmen ever did. Dhyan Chand's wizardry in the game of hockey has been well-documented for many decades. In previous years, the government used to conduct functions on National Sports Day to award the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and other sports awards. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Khelo India Youth Games was launched in 2018 to promote Grassroots development for Sports in India while in 2019, on Dhyan Chand's 114th birthday, the Prime Minister launched the 'Fit India' campaign at the Indira Gandhi Stadium.
At the launch of the Fit India Movement, Prime Minister Modi remarked, "On this day a great sportsperson was born, Major Dhyan Chand. He amazed the world with his his fitness, stamina, and hockey stick." While all the efforts from the government are praiseworthy to a certain extent, the broad fact remains that movements like Khelo India and Fit India seem empty tributes to Dhyan Chand.
Dhyan Chand helped India to three Olympic gold medals in the years – 1928, 1932 and 1936. He had scored over 400 goals in 22 years, spanning from 1926 to 1948. He was bestowed with India’s third-highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan in 1956 while the Major Dhyan Chand Award is the highest award for lifetime achievement in sports and games in India. However, there is still one major award that has eluded Dhyan Chand and there is a demand that he be given this honour even today.
The Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian award in the country. The award is conferred "in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order". Many prominent personalities who have boosted India's image on the world stage have gotten this award. Some politicians decided to give the award to themselves while some who are not deserving have gotten this accolade, except Dhyan Chand.
On every Quora thread and articles on Dhyan Chand, the major question that millions of sports fans are asking 'Why no Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand?' There was a major uproar when Sachin Tendulkar was given the award in 2014. Tendulkar also had big achievements on the cricket field. There is no dispute of that. But, to give it to Tendulkar, who represents a sport which is a religion in India and not to Dhyan Chand who gave India glory in the Olympics is not a fitting tribute to a person after whom National Sports Day is celebrated.
Olympics, where there is a participation of over 100 countries has greater glory while cricket, which is played full-time in 10-12 countries in addition to some 60-70 nations which have associate status and not mainstream has a lesser following. Olympic glory for many sportsmen has massive importance while World Cup cricket glory is like a storm in a tea cup.
Dhyan Chand put India on the sporting world map. India got their first gold medals in hockey all due to Dhyan Chand and his excellence. With every year, the genius of Dhyan Chand has transcended generations and eras. Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have capped off the Fit India campaign by announcing that Dhyan Chand would be the recipient of the Bharat Ratna. Afterall, the erstwhile Prime Minister's Office in 2014 had ignored the name of Dhyan Chand for the Bharat Ratna and awarded it to Tendulkar.
In India, getting recognition often takes time. Even legends are not immune to it. One continues to harbour hope that Dhyan Chand, in addition to several accolades under his name, gets the one award which he is truly entitled to. The onus is now on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that Dhyan Chand is the Bharat Ratna in the near future. The onus is also on sports fans in India, who need to go beyond Twitter tributes and TV programs and demand a Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by the author in this article are personal. News Nation does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the organisation or its members.