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India's top rally driver Gaurav Gill has hit out at the Arjuna awards selection committee after being ignored for the government honour, saying the panel should do its bit to convert a niche sport into a mass sport.
Gill, a two-time Asia Pacific Rally (APRC) Champion, argued that if disciplines like golf, carrom and cue sports can be recognised regularly by the government, why not a physically demanding sport like motor racing.
"I would call them games (golf, carrom and cue sports), not even a sport with due respect to the people who have received the awards in these disciplines," Gill, who will be competing in round four of APRC in Malaysia this weekend, told PTI.
No Indian racing or rally driver has been bestowed with an Arjuna award ever. In fact, it was only in 2015 that the Sports Ministry recognised motor racing as a sport by including FMSCI in the list of national sports federations.
However, India's first Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan did receive Padma Shri, the country's fourth highest civilian honour, in 2010.
At a time when there is not much happening in Indian motorsport, government recognition would have given it a big boost, feels Gill.
"It is only when the authorities consider racers for Arjuna awards, motorsport will gain popularity and will become a career option for masses. It cannot be the other way around," said the 35-year-old Delhi-based racer.
Medallists from sports that feature in the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics benefit from the points system in place for the national sports awards while the evaluation is tougher for sports which are not part of the major multi-sporting events.
Cricket too is not an Olympic sport but the players are awarded every year considering the unmatched popularity of the game.
Gill, however, is pained by the bias towards popular sports.
"Any cricketer who throws 10 good balls or does well once in a while, is awarded. It is a joke," said Gill.
"In my sport, I have been competing with best in the business but still there is no support," he added.