Teenage shooting sensation Manu Bhaker’s father, Ramkishan, has questioned the selection criteria for the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar Award. Bhaker wasn’t chosen for the award despite having won a plethora of medals in top international competitions since starting out as a 16-year-old in the ISSF World Cup in Mexico in 2018.
“If she is ignored like this after winning so many medals, then it is really disappointing. I would like to ask again what is the criteria behind selecting the award winners? Hasn’t she done enough?” asked Ramkishan.
The winners received the awards in a grand ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan from President Ram Nath Kovind, with Bengaluru’s Yash Aradhya becoming the first Indian motorsports driver to win the honour. Kovind conferred the awards to 49 children in the age group of 5-18 years.
The award is given to children for excellence in the fields of innovation, social service, scholastic, sports, art, culture and bravery. It comes with a medal, a cash prize of ₹1 lakh, a certificate and a citation.
Ramkishan said he had repeatedly tried to contact the top officials of the Ministry of Women and Child Development but did not get any response. “We applied for it well before the deadline and since I came to know from someone that Manu’s name is not going to be there this year also, I tried calling the secretary, joint secretary and assistant secretary, but none of them felt the need to respond,” Ramkishan alleged.
“Every time I called them, their personal assistants said they were busy. I have also written 25 mails to them but to no avail,” he said.
In September, 2018, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had extended the last date of receipt of applications for the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar till September 30. “We applied before September 22, so I was wondering if we had gone wrong somewhere. We wanted to ask them but they were not forthcoming. This is not fair selection,” Ramkishan said
In December, 2019, Bhaker clinched two gold medals in the 63rd National Shooting Championships.
The Commonwealth and Youth Olympic Games champion won one gold medal each in the women’s 10-metre air pistol senior and junior events. In the final of the senior event, she shot 243 while in the junior section, Bhaker shot 241.
In November, 2019, Bhaker fired her way to the gold medal with a junior world record in the women’s 10m air pistol event of the prestigious World Cup Finals in Putian, China, ending the year on a rousing note.
Bhaker is one of 15 Indian shooters to have secured quota places for the 2020 Olympics. She is keen to shoot in both the 10m and 25m pistol events at the Games, provided she makes the final squad.
A response from the Ministry is awaited.