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.
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.
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.
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.