Much has been written and spoken about the public demand for awarding Sachin Tendulkar the Bharat Ratna and the government’s dithering over the consideration. The government has commented and various constitutional experts have opined that the criteria laid down for awarding the coveted award will need to be amended to recognize Sachin and his immense contribution to India.
Let’s add some spice to the discussion by throwing some harsh light on the history of the award:
The Bharat Ratna is awarded for “exceptional services towards the Advancement of Art, Literature and Science and in recognition of public service of the highest order”. Experts have opined that the criteria do not have any mention of sports. When the award was started in 1954 (by Presidential Notifications No.1- Pres./54 and No.2-Pres./54), it did not include ‘sports’ as a category most probably as I feel at that time very few Indian could demonstrate “exceptional services” in the advancement of sports. I guess the powers-to be did not recognize the achievements of Dhyan Chand and his hockey magicians.
The Supreme Court of India (in Balaji Raghavan Vs Union of India) observed that “there has been non application of mind by successive governments in granting these awards. Political or narrow group interests are being rewarded by those in office for the time being”. Since 1954, the Bharat Ratna has so far been given to 41 eminent personalities – 25 of them to politicians (a whooping 60%), a clear case of pandering to “special interests” (or rather one’s own interests). Now, if Sachin agrees to be an MP and becomes the Minister of Sports, he might find the Bharat Ratna slipped into his mail box.
Eminent Indians and various government representatives have been suggesting that Sachin does not deserve to be awarded this preeminent honor as his achievements are only “personal”. What would you say about the contributions of these? Were they Bharat-Ratna-worthy?:
Shri Gulzarilal Nanda [for being the stop-gap PM twice], Shri Marudu Gopalan Ramachandran (MGR) [dumping the delightful Jayalalitha on us], Dr. Bhagwan Das [co-founding the predecessor of BHU] or Shri Chidambaram Subramania [basking on the credit of the Green Revolution genuinely belonging to the agri-scientists]
I am not going to waste any blogspace on Sachin’s contribution to our society, our culture and India as a whole since he first strode onto a cricket field. Surely he has gone above and beyond the call of duty in India’s service. Can we say the same for them? Have any of these ever scored a century – even a T20 one?
Sachin has been the veritable role model for children and the citizens of India. Unlike others who do it to pander to their egos, he doesn’t accept doctorates from each and every university or college. He has categorically stated that the only awards which interest him are either cricket-related (MoM etc) or the ones conferred by his government.
Amendments and interpretations of the rules have been undertaken in the past to accommodate awards: Even though the original notifications were unclear on awarding the Bharat Ratna to only Indian citizens or not, it was subsequently awarded to two non-Indians (Nelson Mandela & Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan) and a naturalised Indian (Mother Teresa). [George Bush, please don’t hold your breath!!!]
The original statutes of January 1954 did not make allowance for posthumous awards* and this perhaps explains why the decoration was never awarded to Mahatma Gandhi, though this provision was added in the January 1955 statute. Mahatma Gandhi was definitely unlucky in the awards sweepstakes – as he also missed out on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in spite of being nominated at least 5 times.
By waffling around on the decision, it seems the government is hankering for another civil revolution before they see the light. Lets fire up our facebooks & twitters and give them what they are waiting for.
*An interesting snippet – not bearing any significance on the argument: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1992. The award was later withdrawn as the Award Committee could not give conclusive evidence of Bose’s death and thus it invalidated the posthumous award.