HomeSports 2.0Jyothi Surekha Vennam’s Court Battle for the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna...
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Jyothi Surekha Vennam’s Court Battle for the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award: In Search of Justice

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The 2023 Indian National Sports Awards happened smoothly on Tuesday. Almost all 26 Arjuna Award winners attended, but shooter Esha Singh couldn’t make it due to her commitment at the Asian Olympic Qualification event in Jakarta. On the other hand, the men’s double badminton pair, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who won the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, couldn’t receive the honor from President Draoupadi Murmu because they were busy competing at the Malaysia Open Super 1000.

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Before the smooth awards ceremony, there was some trouble. Jyothi Surekha Vennam, a top compound archer, wasn’t happy about not receiving the Khel Ratna, the highest sports award in the country. She went to the Andhra Pradesh High Court, challenging the selection committee’s decision and arguing that she deserved it more based on the set criteria.

The guidelines state that the Khel Ratna is usually given to one athlete each year, but the committee can make exceptions in special cases and honor multiple athletes. This rule has been used many times in the past, especially in the last decade, to recognize more than one person with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, previously known as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.

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In 2021, there was a notable exception as a record 12 Khel Ratnas were given after India’s success at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, the Ministry reverted to awarding only one individual last year, and this year it was given to Rankireddy and Shetty.

Feeling upset about not being considered for the exception, Jyothi Surekha Vennam took the matter to court armed with calculations to prove that she had the highest points deserving the Khel Ratna.

Calculations for the Khel Ratna

Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award | KreedOn
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To determine the Khel Ratna awardee, the criteria focus on an individual’s performances over a four-year period. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has set rules that say, “Athletes earn points for winning medals based on their performance in the last 4 years, including up to the end of the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and Asian Games held in those years. The points are determined according to the marks provided in the table below.”

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Khel Ratna: Breakdown of Point Allocation

No. Event Gold Silver  Bronze
1. Olympics/Paralympics 80 70 55
2. World Championship/World Cup (once every 4 years) 40 30 20
3. Asian Games 30 25 20
4. Commonwealth Games 25 20 15

The document further clarifies that for sports with events like World Championships or World Cups held at varying times, marks will be given proportionally based on those schedules.

Additionally, the document mentions that points for medals in team events are determined by considering the team’s strength, which is determined by the number of members in the team.

The Formula Applied Depends on the Team Size

  1. Team of 2 people:
  • Points = 1.5 times ‘A’ divided by the number of team members.
  1. Team of 3 or 4 people:
  • Points = 2 times ‘A’ divided by the number of team members.
  1. Team of 5 to 10 people:
  • Points = 3 times ‘A’ divided by the number of team members.
  1. Team of more than 10 people:
  • Points = 5 times ‘A’ divided by the number of team members.

In the given formula, ‘A’ represents the importance of the medal’s color.

For instance, when Vennam secured the gold in the women’s team compound at the 2023 World Archery Championships, the points were calculated as follows:

In the provided formula, ‘A’ denotes the significance of the medal’s color. Using an example, when Jyothi Surekha Vennam won the gold in the women’s team compound at the 2023 World Archery Championships, the points were determined by the formula:

{Weightage of medal} X 2 / (Members in the team)

For Vennam’s case, this equates to \(2 \times 40 = 80/3 = 26.6666\) points. To account for the biannual occurrence of the World Archery Championships, the 26.6666 points are proportionally adjusted. Consequently, Vennam and her teammates receive 13.333 points each from this medal.

In her plea to the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Vennam argues that her performances between 2019 and 2023, including the Asian Games and Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, should be considered for the award. She asserts that these achievements surpass those of Rankireddy and Shetty.

In her petition, Vennam argues that she has a total of 148.74 points using the mentioned calculation method, while Rankireddy and Shetty only have 58.5 points.

Here’s how Vennam reached these numbers, considering all her and the shuttlers’ main results in the four years being considered for the 2023 Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.

Jyothi Vennam’s Performances: 2019 to 2023

Jyothi Surekha Vennam | KreedOn
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Events  Medals  Points
2022 Asian Games Individual Gold  30
2022 Asian Games Women’s Team Gold  20
2022 Asian Games Mixed Team Gold  22.5
2023 World Championships Individual Bronze 10
2023 World Championships Women’s Team Gold  13.33
2021 World Championships Individual Silver 15
2021 World Championships Mixed Team Silver 11.25
2021 World Championships Women’s Team Silver 10
2019 World Championships Individual Bronze 10
2019 World Championships Women’s Team Bronze 6.66
Total 148.74

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Satwik/Chirag results from 2019 to 2023

Satwik/Chirag | KreedOn
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Events  Medals Points
2022 Asian Games Men’s Doubles Gold  22.5
2022 Asian Games Men’s Team Silver 7.5
2022 Commonwealth Games Men’s Doubles Gold  18.75
2022 Commonwealth Games Mixed Team Silver  6
2022 World Championships Mixed Doubles Bronze 3.75
Total 58.5

As per the ministry’s rules, athletes’ points get converted to a maximum of 80. If a contestant, like Vennam with a score of 148.74, has the highest points, it is limited to 80. Other athletes’ scores are adjusted accordingly to make sure 80 remains the top score.

In figuring out Rankireddy and Shetty’s score, the calculation involves multiplying their original score by 80 and then dividing by the highest score, resulting in 31.4. While these points are based on significant sports events like the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and World Championships, the guidelines allow the committee to also consider achievements in other tournaments.

For instance, Rankireddy and Shetty won a gold medal at the 2023 Asian Championships and another gold at the 2022 Thomas Cup. The committee can weigh these accomplishments and assign points accordingly. Nevertheless, it’s mathematically impossible for Rankireddy and Shetty to match Vennam’s points regardless of the considerations.

Inclusion of Subjective Element in Decision-Making

Satwik-Chirag - Khel Ratna Award | KreedOn
Image Source: Rediff

However, the question arises: how did Rankireddy and Shetty manage to secure the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna over Vennam? The process of awarding involves a subjective element, contributing to the decision-making.

The Khel Ratna award is not solely based on an individual’s points, as it only accounts for 80% of the selection process. The remaining 20% is subjective and considers the athlete’s profile and the standard of sports events they have won medals in.

The decision to nominate Rankireddy and Shetty for the award may have also been influenced by badminton being an Olympic sport, while compound archery is not included in the Olympic roster.

Vennam is not the first athlete to express dissatisfaction with the selection process for Indian National Sports Awards. In 2017, Rohan Bopanna criticized the All-India Tennis Federation for not nominating him for the Arjuna Award, but he eventually received it in 2019.

Perks of Khel Ratna

Winners of the Arjuna Award receive a prize of Rs 15 lakh and a trophy, while Khel Ratna awardees get Rs 25 lakh. The best part? These awards are entirely tax exempt, meaning athletes receive the full amount without any deductions, supporting their training and overall life.

There are also additional social benefits. Arjuna Awardees receive a complimentary pass from Indian Railways, granting them lifelong free travel across the country in first or second class. If they are over 65 years old, they can also bring a companion in the same class. Additionally, Air India provides Arjuna Awardees with six one-way or return tickets in a financial year.

Furthermore, the distinction of being recognized as an Arjuna or Khel Ratna Awardee adds an extra layer of prestige. Given the substantial benefits, it’s only logical that athletes strive earnestly to achieve these honors. Vennam’s case might not be the last instance of an athlete taking legal steps to secure these awards, considering the substantial rewards and societal recognition associated with them.

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