Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday said they will continue to offer financial help to the needy former sportspersons since they deserve “respect and dignity” for the dedication with which they served the country. The ministry has been providing financial assistance to former athletes like 1998 Bangkok Asian Games gold medallist boxer Dingko Singh in their times of crisis. Also Read - Judo is a Priority Sport For India: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju

“I feel very said when former athletes don’t have money for their medical treatment or their living condition is very bad. So, as far as possible we try to provide financial help to all the past and present sportspersons,” he said at a virtual farewell of former athletics chief coach Bahadur Singh. Also Read - Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju Sanctions Rs 5 Lakh Each to Two Sportspersons Facing Financial Hardships

“There are a lot of athletes who win medals and achieve success and their commercial value is high. And there are also a lot of athletes who dedicated their lives for the country’s sport but for some reason could not achieve success. They are forgotten by society. Also Read - PLA Hands Over 5 Indians Who Went Missing From Arunachal

“So, we will continue to provide financial assistance to all those sports persons who have represented the country in international events but currently facing financial problems in life.”

He said his ministry gives utmost importance to the athletes.

“The athletes should be given respect and dignity at every level of the society. If we are not doing that, we are giving the wrong message. I feel very sad when athletes are not given respect and dignity.”

Bahadur Singh quit as athletics chief coach on June 30 in accordance with the ministry guidelines that do not allow people above 70 years of age in coaching staff at national camps.

Singh lauded the entire Indian athletics fraternity for its collective efforts in producing medal-winning athletes.

“If India has risen to be a leading nation in Asian athletics, it is because of one man but because of team-work by athletes, coaches, the Athletics Federation of India, SAI, Sports Ministry,” he said.

“But if our schools let our children play sport and give them the facilities, India can be a world power.”

Singh also pointed out that India sorely missed an indoor training facility.

“We spend a lot of money in sending our athletes overseas when the climate at home does not permit training. India badly needs an indoor facility,” he said.

Rijiju described Singh as an “iconic figure” in Indian sports and said his retirement will mark the “end of an era”.

“Two decades as a top athlete, winning gold medals in the Asians Games and other international events (in shot put), and then nearly three decades as a coach is something difficult to match. You will continue to inspire the Indian sporting fraternity in future also,” the minister said.

“The athletes will try to emulate you and we need to find many more Bahadur Singhs in the years to come.”

Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra described Singh as a distinguished personality in Indian sports.

“Bahadur ji has helped develop a culture in the AFI and I hope the athletes will emulate him,” Batra said.