Milkha Singh, one of independent India's biggest sporting icons, passed away on Friday night after a month-long battle against COVID-19. He had lost his former national volleyball captain wife Nirmal Kaur to the same ailment days earlier. According to a spokesperson for the family his cremation will take place at 5 pm today.
On Saturday morning, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced a state funeral for the 91-year-old track legend. "Have directed that Late Milkha Singh Ji will be given a State Funeral by our Government. Also Punjab will observe one day of State mourning as a mark of respect to the departed legend," he tweeted.
As thousands take to social media platforms to express their sadness, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju stated that he would be attending the funeral.
"I'm leaving for Chandigarh to attend the funeral of Milkha Singh Ji. I'm carrying the message of Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji for the family and will pay my tribute to the pride of India, the legendary Flying Sikh," he tweeted.
The former Indian sprinter had tested positive for COVID-19 last month and was in isolation at his home in Chandigarh before he was admitted to the ICU of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) hospital in Chandigarh on June 3. While he had eventually tested negative in mid-June, post-infection complications had led him to the ICU.
The Padma Shri awardee, who was nicknamed 'The Flying Sikh' for his accomplishments, is survived by his golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters. The legendary athlete is a four-time Asian Games gold-medallist and 1958 Commonwealth Games champion. He remains the only Indian to win Gold in the Asian and Commonwealth Championship. He had been awarded the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian honour, in recognition of his sporting achievements.
(with inputs from agencies)