Paralympian Ranjith Kumar is a disheartened man. In his 15-year sporting career, the athlete has bagged an amazing 74 national and international medals. Yet, despite a gloried sporting career, Ranjith has received little recognition from his country.
This year, the 43-year-old athlete hailing from Madurai has been passed over for a Dhyan Chand Award for the third time.
Ranjith began his sporting career at the age of 25. “My PT master was the one who encouraged me to go ahead and become an athlete. But now, I wonder what the use is of winning so many medals in different games when I cannot get the Dhyan Chand Award,” he says.
Wheelchair-bound Ranjith has won 26 medals in international competitions and 48 medals in national competitions in various events like shot put, discus throw and javelin throw. Among his many impressive achievements are two Silver medals at the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled and a Bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games.
The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) has been recommending Ranjith for the Dhyan Chand Award for the last three years. However, he has been consistently passed over.
“When I ask the reason for refusing to give me an award, people tell me it is because I need to get in touch with a powerful politician who can help me get an award. All I know is sports, I do not wish to do anything else for getting an award,” says Ranjith.
Ranjith argues that he more than meets the criteria to receive the award.
According to the criteria laid down by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, “70% weightage is given for medals won in various International championships and sports events of the disciplines covered in Olympic Games (Summer, Winter and Paralympics), Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
Besides this, “30 % weightage is given to the marks given by the Selection Committee for assessment of the eligible sportsperson for contribution made for promotion of sports after retirement from active sports career.”
On both counts, Ranjith says, he is eligible for the award. “I have been involved with coaching students and have been helping them with career opportunities. I have also organised events to promote the skills of the students. According to the government criteria, I have enough medals and also promoted sports after my retirement."
Since his retirement, Ranjith has been working as a coach on a contractual basis with the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu. “I have been fighting with the government to make me permanent but they are not doing it. About 20 students whom I teach have been part of international games,” says Ranjith.
He says that his disappointing experience with the Dhyan Chand Award is a heartbreaking repeat of what happened with the Arjuna award – he applied thrice for that award as well, from 2004 to 2006. “Be it, the Arjuna award or the Dhyan Chand award, people who have received much fewer medals than me have received these awards. What is the use of my achievements? I feel hurt when I see such things,” says Ranjith.