#Famous-People #Society Opinion

So, does Sachin Tendulkar deserve the Bharat Ratna? Two perspectives…

The Prime Minister’s Office has tweaked the eligibility for a person to get the Bharat Ratna honour. The author here presents two perspectives: one, where he treats Bharat Ratna literally (as “India’s Jewel”), and another, where he treats Bharat Ratna as the highest civilian award of a nation. It can’t be both at a time.

I do not advocate Sachin Tendulkar getting the Bharat Ratna just on the basis of my appreciation for his talents. But, this column is not necessarily about Sachin Tendulkar. It is about “any human being who has excelled in just any field of human endeavour”.

Yes, that is the new criterion for a person to be deserving of the Bharat Ratna, as the PMO has decided. Meaning, if you can excel in something as random as typing very fast (and faster than everyone else alive), if you can excel in something as common as public speaking (and beat the best ones at it), something as perverse as cracking vulgar jokes and making the largest possible audience crack with laughter (so much that no one else could), you can be India’s jewel.

Something as desperate as using crook and violence to get independence to a nation of millions, something as criminal as being corrupt at public service, something as marketing-conscious as introducing a porn star into a reality show for more TRPs than sense, can get you a step towards the Bharat Ratna. You are excelling in some field of human endeavour.

That “field of human endeavour” needs to be defined urgently. What we see is merely a redefinition of the eligibility of the award recipient, probably in order to suit the demands of the nation that loves Sachin Tendulkar. The new eligibility is obviously, flawed, as described above. No award on earth can have an eligibility so general, so vague. There has to be a separate award for entertainment, another for sports, another for literature, a different award for journalism, a new one for art, yet another for political genius, and another for leadership. No, there just canNOT be an award for everyone.

We have to decide whether Bharat Ratna is the nation's highest civilian honour or not.

Two cases arise. One, where you take Bharat Ratna by its name. “Bharat Ratna” translates to “India’s Jewel”. Another case is when you treat Bharat Ratna by its position in the country—that of the highest civilian award—ignoring what the award’s name means in Hindi. I have two perspectives from these two cases.

The First Perspective—Bharat Ratna, the Nation’s Jewel. Anyone who has made a name for themselves and made India proud in the entire race of humanity, who has excelled constructively in his or her field of work—sport, literature, art, entertainment, politics, journalism, social service,—AND has simultaneously displayed remarkable levels of integrity and purity as a human being, is obviously India’s Jewel. We’re proud of such a person, and he or she makes India a more beautiful place. Sachin Tendulkar is a Bharat Ratna already from this perspective, just the official recognition awaits.

The Second Perspective—Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award. As I already said, there cannot be one recognition, which can be given for every field. If there is an award which is the highest civilian award, it should only be for direct social change, for possessing “selflessness”—the human virtue which makes a particular person do something for a better future for the humankind, above himself. I do not believe the highest civilian award should be given for art, literature, sports or entertainment. Such things should have separate awards for people who excel in them. A Sachin Tendulkar can not—should not—compete for an award that has been given to Mother Teresa. A leader of sportsmen, an entertainer of masses, should not compete for an award given to a leader of men (Jayaprakash Narayan) and an educator of masses (Radhakrishnan).

‘A’ is the best movie star/sportsperson on the planet who has entertained and united a whole generation. ‘B’ is a person who has revolutionised the education of a whole village, brought about development and awareness in a state, or uplifted a whole generation of the illiterate, poor and downtrodden, in a district.

‘A’ is well-known and loved all over. People demand that he get the Bharat Ratna. ‘B’ on the other hand, is not too well-known outside his region of work. His work appeals, but bores us, when we read about him on Wikipedia. We don’t demand a Bharat Ratna from him.

Few months later, we read in the newspaper: the Prime Minister’s Office is ready to tweak the eligibility of the Bharat Ratna, probably just to make Person A eligible for it, on public demand. Now think of how many B’s are there all over different parts of India, for one ‘A’. Judge yourself who deserves the recognition more.

Think over this: if the A’s are called Bharat Ratna, who will recognise the efforts of all the B’s, if not “the highest civilian honour”?

The amount of undue importance given to entertainment in India is too alarming for a country still blotted by numerous social evils, misfortunes and weaknesses. Entertainment can take a front seat in a highly developed nation; it should not in India. Priorities need to be set for us. Sachin may be awarded the Bharat Ratna for his charitable trusts and his philanthropic deeds, but there is absolutely no point in bestowing upon an individual for sporting talent. It is a case of cheating ourselves—a case of placing our fanatic emotions over sensible brains.

Let me reiterate: this article does not necessarily say that Sachin Tendulkar does not deserve the Bharat Ratna, nor is it about past recipients of the Bharat Ratna. A sportsperson or a singer or an artiste does deserve it, but only if one thinks from the first perspective I mentioned. But as the nation’s highest civilian award, the award must not be meant for anything like art or literature or entertainment, or anything which is (1) not 24-carat selflessness, (2) not directly involved with social change.

A solution: Have two separate awards, one, the Bharat Ratna—India’s Jewel—a title for anyone who does India proud, and another, more superior to it, a new award meant as the highest civilian honour. Do share your views.

About the author

Tanay Sukumar

I founded this website in 2009. I served as Editor-in-Chief from November 2009 to May 2013.
My blog


  • Good point !

    But don’t you think, that the people you mentioned have been awarded recognition as golden as a Noble Prize. Say e.g. Mother Teresa was honored that for Peace something that separates their “Levels of Recognition”.

    No doubt Khel Ratna is there to honour sportspersons but this would be distinguishing somebody who has done the unimaginable or rather on the verge of it.

    Eminent leaders are beyond any doubt “the jewel of India” and will remain in our heads forever.

    Sachin vs Other winners is like comparing Oranges with apples.

    One is citrus, the other isn’t.

    The thing about “human endeavour”, yeah it needs to be reframed. I guess “Ismein bhi kisi jaan-pehchaani taakat ka HAATH hai”. :p

    Well put ! 🙂

    • And since you mention the Nobel prize, the highest recognition in the world, even that prize has categories. Which matches with what I say, that there CANNOT be a single award that can be awarded to people from every field! If at all, the selection must be so sophisticated that it lets in only those people who have affected lives in a more concrete manner than mere entertainment.

  • i don’t think that SACHIN TENDULKAR deserve the Bharat Ratna.

    this is the highest civilian award,and i think that it should be given to those who have sacrificed their all comforts to serve the society.

    Though sachin tendulkar have played many match winning innings for nation and is a great player,but does his any of the match brought any good to this nation beside some entertainment.

    Their are people in INDIA who have worked selflessly through-out their life for making india better,but they are unknown and not as popular as SACHIN TENDULKAR.

    i would rather support to give Bharat Ratna to a person like Shri ANNA HAZAARE for what all he did for society

    and still doing and his action has brought a spark in youngsters to fight against various social issues.

    Sachin Tendulkar plays cricket…he inspires youngsters to play cricket…???…but what else….???…

    is that enough for a person to be given a BHARAT RATNA…???…just for entertainment..???

    • Exactly. Glad to have such people among youth who care to think before getting swept away by emotions of appreciation and popular belief.

  • Well i don’t know if Sachin/Amitabh should be awarded with “Bharat Ratna”. But surely I don’t want a “Bharat Ratna” to sell Koka Kola or Pepsi on TV. There are more deserving people like Metro-Man E. Shreedharan, Who has devoted his life for betterment of India.

  • It really is how you view it.

    For me the guy who goes into every match and does the very best he could shall be awarded the Bharat Ratna.

    In my view, that sure is a “kind of” national service.

    You may differ in perception, you may not see the direct influence of the cricketing world on the society. But it does hold a global importance. It does unite the nation, say for a few hours only, but yeah it does.

    For you, serving the mankind directly; deserves the Bharat Ratna, sure it does ; but someone who has spent all his lifetime, doing the best for the nation (in his own ways) also deserves the Bharat Ratna, you may not see the sacrifices he made, but it does not mean there are not any.

    i can not think anyone more suitable than Sachin Tendulkar for the Bharat Ratna not because he has done wonders with his batting, but for doing what many Indians wanted him to do, for most of the times; and preparing himself very hard for the same.

    • I do not disagree with *ANY*thing that you said. But, there are sporting awards for those achievements. Even the Nobel Prize has categories. Firstly, it’s really absurd to have such a general award. There are many different types of skills, and there are people excelling EVERYwhere. If there’s one topmost general award like the Bharat Ratna, it should be one based on humanity, not talents. Anyway, personal opinion.

  • Sachin truly deserves Bharat Ratna. He is the one who has over the years, united the nation and has bound them together,and has forged a bond which goes beyond religion. I don’t understand your fixation over visible “social service”. One doesn’t need to sacrifice their lives to become great, as great people are known by their work and deeds. For someone performing so well at the highest level in Indian Sports arena is in no way less than a social service. Above all, he is the reason behind the rise of Indian team which will go on to become the most dominating team in International arena in coming times. Think about it.. Sourav Ganguly retired a long time back,leaving the No.6 slot in Indian test team,which still lies vacant without any fruitful successor. Its even hard to think about who will be able to replace this great man. A man who has dedicated all his life playing and toiling for his country, is not only a Bharat Ratna,but a “ratna” for the world. There never was,and will never be any great player after Sachin Tendulkar. For someone, who gives so much joy to the Indians(be it Hindus,Christians,Muslims,Sikhs) and unites them in one thread,in the religion of Cricket,with everyone praying when he comes out to bat,the only nation where the crowd cheer after a batsman is out only because Sachin will be in nextdeserves this respect. Though I think its an insult to the great man that this Corrupt Government will be handing out the award to him.Well, just look out how the Indians will come out on streets to celebrate his 100th International ton due soon, forgetting all their worries, the inflation,the corruption. Such is the extent of joy provided by this man. Long live the legend. P.S: And I know you guys will be glued to the Television sets when he reaches in his 90s in the upcoming Australian tour…:) And yeah,instead of posting hate articles,rejoice the moment. Praise the saint. 🙂 He has a golden heart,hasn’t done any wrong to you. So analyzing him is beyond godliness.Just chill and join in the great man’s joy.

    • I’m sorry but your comment is solely based on emotions. Another comment posted here against the article is based on reason, and I responded to it in its spirit.

      I’d like you to counter my views.

      P.S. Yes, I will be glued to the TV set when Sachin bats, my heart will jump when Sachin nears his 100th century. Yes, he is India’s jewel. Please read the article completely, unbiased.

      • Sorry,I read the post by that person,and did not find any difference between what I’ve written what he has written. And if my post does emit emotions.. then be it..The deeds of a “social worker” anyway instill emotions. Logic and reasoning aside, the award is the highest Civilian award- IMO, Sachin is the most deserving Civilian of our times,and has served the national duty(of taking Indian Cricket to pinnacles of glory). And no amount of counter attacks can take that away. SARCASM ON.

        • Better comment.

          And I am the author of the post, not a third person! 😀

          Well, agreed to your comment. But just would like to know your view on my comparison of person A, and many persons B. What do you respond to it?

        • I wish to narrow down the debate to this extract:

          “‘A’ is the best movie star/sportsperson on the planet who has entertained and united a whole generation. ‘B’ is a person who has revolutionised the education of a whole village, brought about development and awareness in a state, or uplifted a whole generation of the illiterate, poor and downtrodden, in a district.

          ‘A’ is well-known and loved all over. People demand that he get the Bharat Ratna. ‘B’ on the other hand, is not too well-known outside his region of work. His work appeals, but bores us, when we read about him on Wikipedia. We don’t demand a Bharat Ratna from him.

          Few months later, we read in the newspaper: the Prime Minister’s Office is ready to tweak the eligibility of the Bharat Ratna, probably just to make Person A eligible for it, on public demand. Now think of how many B’s are there all over different parts of India, for one ‘A’. Judge yourself who deserves the recognition more.

          Think over this: if the A’s are called Bharat Ratna, who will recognise the efforts of all the B’s, if not “the highest civilian honour”?”

          • Both deserve the award,as both are doing exceptionally well in their respective fields and serving the nation,thus making them eligible for the highest Civilian award. This person A,has served Indian sports for more than two decades,and if on public demand, the criteria is tweaked to sneak in many more unsung sports persons like Dhyan Chand,then be it. The person B, and many of his counterparts are already eligible for it,(under social service). So it is the job of PMO(Prime Minister Office) to take notice. As for the public demand, it was altogether for a different reason as the sports did not even exist in the awards criteria. It definitely needed a tweaking after such a long time. Who would have thought back then,when the award was conceptualized that someone can put India on global map in sports arena? I second the move to give a truly deserved award to both great sportsmen from India.

  • It is quite unfortunate, rather unbecoming of any citizen of any country to disregard the honour, one man, one single individual, one-one man army and his efforts had given to one’s nation. It’s only in a narcissus paranoia driven country that such thoughts be entertained.

    • If you meant I disregarded the honour, it’s a misunderstanding. I have nothing against the honour. What I believe is a mistake by us is, the understanding of what the honour is meant for. I believe we as a country have failed to understand what the award is meant for: we need to choose between the two perspectives I mentioned.

  • I agree there is a point in what you say. But then, people like C.V. Raman, Satyajit Ray, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Ravi Shankar, Lata Mangeshkar, Bismillah Khan and Bhimsen Joshi have also got Bharat Ratna’s. So it has been given to people who solely entertain us, and one is a physicist. And these people are better than the best, I agree, but even they have not done anything humanitarian.

    • After reading your comment, what I think is, I may not be right in saying the award should not be given to sportpersons, but I still believe that Bharat Ratna should not be called the highest civilian honour of the country. It should just be a title—like knighthood in the British royalty—given to anyone who makes India proud.
      Once again, it needs to be seen that I have presented TWO perspectives, not just one. By one perspective, I don’t deny that Sachin deserves the honour. But in that case, I feel the “highest civilian honour” thing should be done away with.

  • No. Sachin doesn’t deserve the Bharat Ratna. There is a reason the number of Bharat Ratnas have gone down in the recent decade – and the government has made a mockery of the award by starting to award it to entertainers and musicians. That is not what the award was meant for. It is reserved for people who have made immense contribution towards the betterment of the country. Tell me what improvement did Sachin cause, other than filling his pockets and wasting an astonishingly large number of man hours on watching. Have the poor become richer after watching Sachin play? They have probably lost some 4-5 hours of their daily wage salaries due to him.

    Regarding the matter of Sachin’s talent, the only reason the man has such a following is because the rest of the team sucks. A B-student looks good in a class of D-students. Its the same case here. Now, is it fair to award him this honour just because he was the best among the worst?

    He is the embodiment of everything wrong about the Indian attitude. The traditional ‘there-is-always-somebody-else-to-do-the-work-attitude’ is clearly visible in the Indian team. He always crumbles under pressure, which is a highly negative attitude, and the lack of leadership skills. Is this a guy you want to look up to? Think of it.. any other profession, with such an attitude, you wouldn’t last a single day in it. He’s the equivalent of a clerk in a bank – who does his work properly all day long, without having to face any pressure situations and no need for leadership and management. THIS is the guy you want the younger generations to look up to?

    Regarding the national unity argument, hello? Its the sport that brings out the national sentiment. Tell me, do you feel the same patriotic feelings when Sachin plays for Mumbai Indians? No! you wouldn’t. Its the beauty of sports that brings out the patriotic feelings, so no, I don’t agree that he has helped in national unification. Probably, he has only increased the Maharshtra bias in Indian cricket. Case in point – Zaheer Khan is from Vadodara, but he plays for the Maharashtra team. Why is that so?

    If the government really wants to give the Bharat Ratna to somebody, give it to somebody like Harish Hande, this years Magsasay award winner, who has actually done something to help the people.

    Signing off

    • There are so many candidates actually deserving this award. ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Try to think what would have happened if it were not for these people. With Sachin, I sadly see no difference in the common man’s life. Why even the world cup could have been won without Sachin this year.
      The deserving ones are:
      Dr. Verghese Kurien – for Amul obviously.
      Ratan Tata – Fine, he is a businessman, but TATA is the best example of CSR in Indian business, and he has put India on the global map with Nano, which is achievement to be proud of
      E Shreedharan – for Delhi metro
      Sam Pitroda – he is the silent worker in the PM cabinet, who deserves more credit
      Narayan Murthy – for Infosys and pioneering the Indian IT industry
      Nandan Nilekanni – for undertaking the Aadhar project
      and many others to come, but please don’t insult the past awardees by bringing them to the same level as Sachin Tendulkar.

      • Appreciate your views in this comment. It’s a very enlightening statement:

        “‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’. Try to think what would have happened if it were not for these people. ”

        I think this is the best idea I’ve come across in the thread. It should be the real benchmark for the “highest civilian honour”.

    • Hi Ajay. This is a very detailed comment which deserves a very good reply. I agree with some of your points and disagree with some.
      Your paragraph 1: Very well-put. Exactly what I mean by saying in my article, that entertainment has too important a place in the Indian mindset. I agree with every word of yours, and you’ve put it better than my attempt in the whole article. A lot of people have lost much to cricket and their fanaticism. Love for a sport needs to be regulated. I see there is this man from somewhere in Bihar, who is a well-known Sachin fan, and is seen sporting a tricolor attire every single match India plays (someone told me Sachin knows him personally and helps him financially to attend all matches). It does not represent any love for the sport, it’s pure madness and waste of human resource. Such idiots have no place in a civilised developing society. If at all he loves to see Sachin, he should realise Sachin is doing his work all the time that he is WATCHING him work. Appreciation without getting inspiration from that person is purely senseless.

      Your second paragraph: I disagree. Sachin’s batting prowess has been renowned the world over, and we’re not the only country who believes he is the best.

      Your third paragraph: You’re counting skills. Every person has his own skills and abilities. My article has been written for any sportsperson who is the best in their field. Yours, meanwhile, are statements made from the cricketing point of view. You have gone beyond the question raised in the title of the post, and instead of answering the question, you questioned the question itself, by bringing his skills in. So, it becomes a different topic altogether—one of cricketing skills.

      Your fourth paragraph: I want everyone to read this.

      Your fifth paragraph: Exactly!

      • Thanks for replying Tanay.

        Ok, I probably went overboard demeaning his cricketing skills. I admire him for his talent and humility. I have nothing against him personally. It just irks me if somebody gets more recognition than he actually deserves. His apotheosis by the public is something that is not acceptable to me. As you said, while the public thinks he is doing a great service to the nation, all he is doing is simply feeding his family by doing his job like any other common man.

        Before someone tags me as a Sachin-hater, I repeat, I don’t hate the guy. I just don’t think he deserves the ‘Bharat Ratna’ for simply doing the job he is paid for.

  • I never felt Sachin should be awarded the Bharat Ratna. But I never knew why. You’ve explained it in a very correct way.

  • Instead of focusing on who doesn’t deserve the Bharath Ratna, I feel we would be more productive by deciding who deserves it the most. That would help in setting examples. Someone mentioned Dr.Kurien and Mr E.Sreedharan. Now I feel that awarding these fine personalities with the Rathna award would go a long way in maintaining its sanctity.

  • Wisden’s published their top 100 Test Cricket innings featuring all time great innings till 2011. None of Sachin Tendulkar innings have found a place on top 100.



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