For long I’ve been rooting for Sachin to win the “Bharat Ratna”, the highest civilian award for National Service. Wikipedia states that “this service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as “recognition of public service of the highest order.” So I wonder if sportspersons could fall under the category of persons awarded for “public service of the highest order”. While we all understand that the “Arjuna Awards” have been specifically to award sportspersons, the “Bharat Ratna” holds a special place for us Indians. Sachin’s act of returning to England to represent India in the 1999 World Cup at the time of his father’s death, his perseverance to play for India despite a painful back problem or the tennis elbow problem are a few of his many wonderful gestures. There are countless other instances.
Only 41 people have won this award since it was constituted in the year 1954, none of whom have been a sportsperson.
How easy or difficult is it for sportspersons to prove that they have done a great service to their country through their dedication and perseverance in their profession? Several of our sportspersons who have contributed significantly to the country in some of the lesser popular sports have made huge sacrifices. They train in poor sporting grounds, struggle to receive government funds for their training and travel and most of the times their families make huge sacrifices for them. It is time we reward them with something special. They must realize that their profession is not a mere pastime for the rest of us and that we value their contributions.
It is also quite shocking that we choose to skip this award many a times (between the years 2002 and 2007). I refuse to believe that we were unable to find a single deserving candidate during the aforementioned years. When Pandit Bhimsen Joshi could be awarded in 2008, why weren’t there enough people to be awarded in 2005 or 2006? It just shows our lackadaisical attitude towards rewarding extraordinary people who are living amongst us. I was shocked to see that Sardar Vallabhai Patel was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1991, 41 years after his death.
It is quite obvious that a majority of people who lived in the era of Sardar Patel and knew of his greatness did not see him receive the honor. It is equally clear that those who witnessed the award ceremony in 1991 would not have seen him or heard him speak and hence wouldn’t realized the real greatness of the man. In this context, I firmly believe that it is important for us to recognize the awardees quite early and reward them during their lifetime.
Politics plays a big role in deciding the Bharat Ratna awardees. These decisions are made by committees appointed by the Central government and hence the latter has a great say.
Kids in India dream about winning the “Nobel Prize”. Wouldn’t it be great if these kids felt the same about the Bharat Ratna?
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.