The Bharat Ratna Controversy -
January 21st, 2008
Bharat Ratna, meaning the Jem or Jewel of India, is India’s highest civilian award for the highest degree of national service. This award was first established by the first President of India, Rajendra Prasad on 2nd January, 1954. Till now there have been around 40 awardees for the Bharat Ratna and includes the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bhadur Shastri, Rajendra Prasad himself, Mother Teresa, JRD Tata, APJ Abdul Kalam, Amartya Sen, Lata Mangeshkar and Ustad Bismillah Khan to name a few.
But the point to note here is that the last Bharat Ratna was awarded in the year 2001 and since then the Government of India didn’t find any person suitable for this award. And the question to be asked is why India has not been able to find a Bharat Ratna for seven long years.
Now suddenly there is much brouhaha about whom to award the jewel and all this happened because of a young television reporter suggesting the name of Sachin Tendulkar for the jewel who has inspired the Indian cricket for almost around 20 long years and still continuing to inspire millions of youngsters and lovers of the game. And then came the list of names ranging from Mr.Vajpayee to M F Hussain from various political parties. But the fact of the matter is, lets stop being hypocritical about those we admire and come to a valid point as to how we view public service as, especially in the 21st century. Its not that we do not have talent, we just can’t figure out the talent located outside the walls of politics and old professions.
In India, age, ‘white hair’ or baldness and durability are considered inspiring and prime reason that the jewel is awarded to him or her. But now we have to move on. Figures clearly indicate that around 70% of our population is in the age group of under thirty five and hence the government finds it difficult to look for a person suitable for the jewel. If we just look at the skills of our ministers including those who have been nominated by their party members for the jewel, I think none of them has that personality, charisma, communication skills like oratory and infact a vision for tomorrows’ India. Just look at Barak Obama’s oratory skills or for that matter our very own Anil Ambani. They have in them the capability to move the audiences, have an impact on their lives and most importantly a goal and a vision for the future. In India a talent for oratory or giving a public speech with an applause is considered quite irrelevant. The only relevant thing as I said earlier is the age that matters. In India you have to be over 60 years of age to be recommended for this high stature of national award! And that too if you have a political career, whether good or bad doesn’t really matter in the end.
So I feel the time has come for the government to see the modern India with new vision and come out with the modern definition of “public service” which includes any kind of service to the country and not only politically. A thousand of flowers are booming daily in this beautiful country like artisans, singers, musicians, sportsperson and so on and still the government is stuck in this public sector mindset. We are in the 21st century, a century of young and energetic people with high ambitions and dreams to achieve almost everything with a positive mindset and it is high time that the government understand the new and modern India and bestow the jewel to our young greats rather than our corrupt ministers who have done nothing great for our motherland.
by Rohan Kachalia