The family of India's first individual Olympic winner, Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav, will soon auction off his medal to raise funds for a wrestling academy the government had promised to build in his name, but failed to do so.
In 2009, the then sports minister of Maharashtra had announced that a national-level wrestling academy would be set up in KD Jadhav's name in the Satara district of Maharashtra, reported Hindustan Times. In 2013, Rs 1.58 crore was sanctioned for the project but plans for the academy are still to see the light of the day.
"The decision to auction the bronze medal is a painful one but we are left with few options as the state government has reneged on its promise to build the academy," Jadhav's son, Ranjit, told PTI in a phone interview.
Jadhav's contribution to wrestling was not recognised until 16 years ofter his death in 1984, when he was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2000.
In 1952, at the young age of 27, Jadhav won India its first individual Olympic medal by placing third in freestyle wrestling at the Helsinki Olympics. Jadhav's bronze remained India's only individual medal for almost 50 years, until Leander Paes won a bronze in 1996. Despite his historic win, Jadhav lived and died in obscurity. His contribution to wrestling was not recognised until 16 years after his death in 1984, when he was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2000.
The threat to auction India's first Olympic medal is clearly a symbolic gesture to shame the government into coming through on its promise to honour the late Olympian's legacy. "We have issued an ultimatum to the state government till August 14 – the 33rd death anniversary of my father... If they fail to clear its promise of the academy, from Independence Day, August 15, the family and villagers will go on a hunger strike," an Indian Express report quoted Ranjit Jadhav as saying.
KD Jadhav is India's only Olympic medallist who has not been conferred a Padma Award.
This is not the first time Ranjit Jadhav has tried to get the government to recognise his father's place in the sporting history of the country. KD Jadhav is India's only Olympic medallist who has not been conferred a Padma Award.
In 2014, The Hindu reported that Ranjit had made efforts to get the government to change its rules — the Padma Awards are not awarded posthumously, unless the recipient has died within the year preceding the Republic Day on which the award is announced — so that KD could be awarded the Padma Bhushan.
"If the government can change the rule recently to allow sportspersons to get the Bharat Ratna, why can't they do it in the case of Padma Awards?" The Hindu had quoted him as saying.