Indian athletes received their awards on the occasion of National Sports Day.

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju defended the unprecedented number of national sports awardees, saying that the performances of Indian athletes have gone up considerably and as a result, the number of award winners have also increased.

India’s President Ram Nath Kovind conferred awards to the sportspersons through a virtual ceremony due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A total of 74 athletes, coaches and institutions received the awards, which includes an unprecedented five Khel Ratna and 27 Arjuna awardees.

“India will rise. I’m grateful to Hon’ble President Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji for conferring the National Sports & Adventure Awards 2020. Under PM Narendra Modi Ji’s leadership, our government is taking all necessary steps to create a robust sports culture to achieve sporting excellence,” said Kiren Rijiju.

He remarked, “The performance of our athletes at the international level has become better. When our players perform better, they have to be recognized and rewarded. If the government doesn’t recognize their achievements, it will discourage every budding sporting talent we have in India. So, compared to previous years, the performances of Indian athletes have gone up considerably and as a result, the number of award winners have also gone up.”

Kiren Rijiju also cleared that the government does not choose athletes for the awards as there is a proper committee in place for this purpose.

He said, “For the sports awards, the committee was headed by a Supreme Court judge and all the renowned people from the field of sports. When they take a call there is intense deliberation, discussion and there are set guidelines on the basis of which they have used their judgement.”

“The minister doesn’t decide the awards, the minister only gives the consent on behalf of the government, but it is the technical committee which decides.”

The government also increased the prize money for the awardees this year. The prize money for the Khel Ratna award increased from ₹7.5 lacs to ₹25 lacs, Arjuna Award from ₹5 lacs to ₹15 lacs and Dronacharya warda from ₹5 lakh to ₹15 lakh.

Cricketer Rohit Sharma, Indian women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal, table tennis star Manika Batra, wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Paralympian Mariyappan Thangavelu have been conferred with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award this year.