The Bharat Ratna Debate


Sports Versus Science?

Sachin Tendulkar’s glorious career came to a picture perfect end when he was awarded with the much deserving Bharat Ratna. The Master Blaster has to his credit an array of records which include amassing the highest number of runs in both one day internationals and tests, and also scoring the highest number of centuries in both the formats of the game.

In addition to Tendulkar, Southern Scientist CNR Rao was also awarded with India’s highest civilian honour. Prof. Rao currently serves as the Head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. The octogenarian has to his credit over 1500 research papers and has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates by both national and international universities and institutes.

However, the recently announced awards have generated quite a lot of controversy. Prof. Rao’s Bharat Ratna award was bound to be overshadowed as he labelled politicians as “idiots” for not sanctioning enough funds to carry out his research. The media took this statement of his very seriously as it provided them with ready-made ammunition to question the credentials of this ace-scientist, and add raise questions at the murky procedure of selecting award winners. Nevertheless, let’s come back to the man of the moment, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

We all know that Sachin truly deserved the award but unfortunately, the award has come at the wrong time for him. Let me reiterate that the Bharat Ratna is the biggest honour in India but somehow  it has been made to look small in front of Sachin as the timing of this announcement has been purposely made to coincide with his retirement.

It would be childish on our part to forget as to how the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is trying to save its skin and reputation by cashing in on celebrities. It was definitely an image makeover exercise on the part of the UPA when we saw Sachin and Rekha being sent to the Rajya Sabha. Similarly, we’re witnessing Sachin and Rao getting the Bharat Ratna as a result of a hush-hush announcement made by the Prime Minister’s office. With due respect to Sachin, it is quite possible that the Congress led UPA is trying to boost its electoral prospects through Sachin.

There are other questions that need to be answered as well. We were told some time back that under the present rules, sportsmen cannot be awarded the Bharat Ratna. When were the required amendments made to provide for the same?

We were also told that the Sports Ministry favoured Dhyan Chand over Sachin Tendulkar. What really happened that catapulted Tendulkar over Chand in the race for the Bharat Ratna?

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha kick-started the debate as to why Former Indian Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has not been awarded the Bharat Ratna. He found support from unexpected quarters, Nitish Kumar, Farooq Abdullah and Pallam Raju, who echoed similar views. Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari responded by stating that Vajpayee cannot be a recipient of the award since he did not follow “Raj Dharma” during the 2002 Gujarat riots. While defending Tewari’s statement on Arnab Goswami’s The Newshour, party spokesman Sanjay Jha referred to the infamous “Babri ya barabari” statement of Vajpayee to say that he stands disqualified from being awarded the Bharat Ratna.

Considering the personal indictment of AB Vajpayee by the Liberhan Commission which was set up to investigate into the Babri Masjid demolition—which by the way called Vajpayee a “pseudo moderate”— it would certainly be a highly controversial call to honour Vajpayee that too at a time when video recordings of him making provocative speeches on the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition have been published for all to view on the web.

What’s more is that apart from supporting Vajpayee, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pleaded to the government to bestow the honour on legendary socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia. In the past, BSP Supremo Mayawati had said that her mentor Kanshi Ram deserves the highest honour of the land. PCI Chief and Retired Justice Markandey Katju has also been asking the government to honour Urdu Poet Ghalib with the Bharat Ratna.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a wise step to give away the Bharat Ratna award “posthumously”. Not because the deceased souls are undeserving but because if we keep dwelling on the past, those living  will never get a chance to win. We’ve had so many great men emerging from Indian soil that we won’t get an opportunity to honour each and every one of them. Right from Buddha, Mahavir Jain and Guru Nanak to Vikramaditya, Ashoka and Akbar, all would be in line to win the award. Wouldn’t it be be chaotic if we went around handing out the award in this manner?

The Bharat Ratna  should be above politics. It’s really a shame that the selection procedure for the same is so shrouded in secrecy that we can’t help but question the decisions made. The government should strive to make the procedure a bit more transparent by at least revealing the names of the nominees every time they are given, and the reasons why the awardees have been chosen over the other contenders.  Don’t you think so?

Saif Khan

Do you think Sachin Tendulkar deserved the Bharat Ratna? Write your opinions in the comment box below.

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