Dhyan Chand should be conferred Bharat Ratna: Olympians

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Kolkata, Aug 29: Conferring Bharat Ratna, the country''s highest civilian award, to Dhyan Chand was the common refrain of Olympians at the the hockey legend''s 106th birth anniversary function here today, even as Bengal Sports Minister Madan Mitra pledged to revive the game''s sagging fortunes in the state in a year.

Six Olympians -- Leslie Claudius, Keshav Dutt, Jaswant Rajput, Gurbux Singh, Bir Bahadhr Singh and Ashok Kumar -- attended the Bengal Hockey Association''s annual prize distribution on the occasion of National Sports Day here.

Dhyan Chand's son Ashok Kumar, who was part of the bronze medal winning 1972 Olympics team, led the chorus demanding Bharat Ratna to the hockey legend.

"Dhyan Chand began the sporting movement in India ... Sir Donald Bradman in cricket and Mahatma Gandhi in India''s freedom struggle. He is undoubtedly the choice for the honour ahead of anybody else," Ashok Kumar told reporters.

"Dhyan Chand was instrumental in making hockey popular not only in India but everywhere in the world. He was the magician whose impact among us is still distinct," he said.

Mitra said as a hockey lover he felt the discussion of conferring the award to Dhyan Chand should have been made much earlier.

Pledging to revive Bengal's hockey culture in one year, Mitra said he had made the land allotted for an artificial turf in Saltlake ''encroachment free''.

"It's now free of encroachment. Work will begin soon for our own first artificial turf in the state," he said.

Sourav Ganguly was one of the invitees but the former India cricket captain was conspicuous by his absence.

Earlier in the day, Hockey Lover's Association unveiled a life-size statue of Dhyan Chand in Bhowanipore.

PTI

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