In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the All India Sports Council of the Deaf (AISCD) has accused para-athletics star and Khel Ratna awardee Deepa Malik of favouritism while being the member of the national awards committee this year.
AISCD objects Deepa Malik's membership on the national awards committee
The AISCD objected to the point that the 2016 Paralympic double medallist was included in the committee despite being the president of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).
"It is very wrong that any person, who is the office-bearer or Executive Board Member of any National Sports Federation, can be selected to constitute a member or other alike in the National Award Selection Committee," read the letter, dated on August 22.
Deepa, meanwhile, refuted the claims saying she was part of the awards committee as a Khel Ratna awardee and not as the yet-to-be-affiliated PCI chief.
"It is important to understand that I wasn't there in capacity as the president of the paralympic committee because currently, we are yet to be affiliated. I was there purely as Khel Ratna Deepa Malik," the 49-year-old track and field para-athlete told IANS.
2016 Paralympic gold medallist high jumper T Mariyappan will be conferred with the Khel Ratna Award while Suyash Narayan Jadhav and Sandeep (para-athletics) and Manish Narwal (para-shooting) will be conferred with the Arjuna Awards.
Among coaches, Vijay Bhalchandra Munishwar (para powerlifting) and Gaurav Khanna (para-badminton) will be given the prestigious Dronacharya Award. The Dhyan Chand Award listed Ranjith Kumar (para-athletics) and Satyaprakash Tiwari (para-badminton).
The AISCD further claimed in the letter that all the above-mentioned names were probably recommended at Deepa's discretion while the AISCD's four nominations were ignored. The body's nominations were Suravi Ghosh (TT) and Prithvi Sekhar (tennis) for Arjuna; Sonu Anand Sharma (badminton) and athletics coach Satnam Singh for Dhyan Chand and Dronacharya respectively.
"It is crystal clear that Ms Deepa Malik might have nominated 8 or 9 people through her own federation and might have recommended the same in whole through the selection committee to government.
"Would you think that it is correct for one federation to nominate their people through the same federation and recommend the same in whole through the selection committee to the government? If it is so, what is democracy and where is democracy?" read the AISCD letter.
However, Deepa clarified that she wasn't the only member in the 12-person awards committee headed by retired Justice of Supreme Court Justice Mukundakam Sharma.
"Deepa Malik alone doesn't comprise the awards committee; it is chaired by a session court judge and there are people from media and sports field in it as well. So my vote alone will not count. Deliberation and shortlisting as per the points is duly done by the sports ministry," she reasoned.
Further denying the claims of being biased towards the deaf community, Deepa claimed she has always given her best for the welfare of the community.
"As far as my favouritism is concerned, I run an NGO which has done a lot to raise the bar of the deaf community. I have nurtured a deaf girl to become a world beauty queen. She went on to become Miss World deaf. In February this year, I also conducted Miss and Mr India deaf," explained Deepa.