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Cueist fumes at Padma snub, writes to Rahul

Press Trust Of India
Jan 30, 2010 at 06:42pm IST

New Delhi: Miffed at being ignored for the Padma Shri award, two-time Asian champion cueist Yasin Merchant has shot off an emotional letter to AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, ridiculing some of this year's awardees.

Merchant, in his two-page letter, has questioned the selection criteria for the award, saying his international achievements have been completely ignored.

In his letter, a copy of which is with PTI, Merchant writes, "All synonyms defining the word disappointment racked my body and as expected frustration too did an all body tour, pinching and biting every pore of my disillusioned body, as I browsed through the list of fortunate recipients who have been 'honoured' by India.

IGNORED CHAMPION: Yasin Merchant won gold medal at the Busan Asian Games.

"The list was high profile, as it should be, comprising sports people who belong to the nation's most loved sport, whose earlier recipients did not even consider the Padma Award ceremony worthy of their presence, but they still get favoured.

"The list included performers who are in their late 70's, 80's or even 90's, to whom it wouldn't matter if it was day or night. Not grudging their award, just the timing of their receiving it. The list included the 'elite' who have just a few cases of alleged fraud tagged along their name.

"Most importantly, the list included 'Youth Icons' who have been conferred with Padma Bhushans and Padma Shris for setting such examples like being allegedly involved in killing endangered species, having live-in relationships, abandoning wives and kids and moving on to 'greener pastures', getting involved in immature, juvenile digs at fellow performers. Are these the role models for our children?" Merchant writes.

Speaking to PTI over phone from Mumbai, the Busan Asian Games gold medallist said, "I hope this letter gets read and I'll get the award in near future."

"Deserving candidates like me who have given so many years to the country are being ignored at this year's list. They (government) didn't consider my name worthy. It's shameful and demoralising.

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"In 2001 also, it was announced that I had been given the award but when the final list was declared my name was not there," Merchant fumed.

He also added that he had earlier also written a letter to Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi on the matter.

"I have no clue what is going on. Let the officials answer me this time. One thing which I know for sure is that I do not have very strong political connections, nor do I have the desire to buy these awards," he added.

Arjuna awardee and national snooker champion Merchant further writes in the letter that "Coming back to the list, it included all of the above and also some nameless, faceless individuals who have somehow found their way into the good books of the people who decided these awards. The list however does not include individuals, who from the age of 13 to date (43), have been slogging their backsides off, converting sweat into blood, sacrificing friends and society for the sake of earning glory for their club, their city, their state and eventually their country."

The letter goes on to state that, "I also do not have the patience and inclination to go around begging for recommendation letters from MPs and MLAs, as the formality for these awards demands.

"You call this a formal system to apply for the awards? Nothing but a sham! A pathetic excuse to feed the already inflated egos of the bureaucrats and an opportunity to shame the achievers of our country into submission."

But Merchant in his letter also clarified that "not everybody is undeserving and there are people like Saina Nehwal in the list who fully deserve the award. But with this letter, I want to vent out my frustration of so many years. One day before the awards were announced, I at 43, beat a man of 24 at a major championship in Chennai."

In the past, Pankaj Advani, Geet Sethi, Om Agrawal and Wilson Jones have been honoured with the Padma Shri while Michael Ferreira was given the Padma Bhushan.

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