Bharat Ratna

INDIA HAS produced a legacy of brave hearts since times immemorial. Probably there is not enough space to measure their sacrifices. However, we cannot close our eyes to those people who have made our country proud by excelling in their own fields and bringing us international recognition.

There is some controversy or the other associated with the Padma awards, Arjuna awards and even the National film awards every year. This year it is the turn of belittling the Bharat Ratna. Ever since the BJP leader and leader of the Opposition LK Advani wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recommending Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s name for Bharat Ratna, a growing list of names has started doing the rounds. This list includes Mulayam Singh Yadav, Charan Singh, Jyoti Basu, Mohd Rafi, SB Chavan and many others. And it is increasing with each passing day. Campaigning for any award devalues its prestige. By going public with the names for Bharat Ratna, the proposers have caused embarrassment to the nominees as well as the jury. In successive acts of ‘me-too-ism’, politicians have named the senior leaders of their parties or communities.

Ever since it was instituted in 1954, which is 54 years ago, only 40 persons from various fields, mostly of high eminence, but some with doubtful credentials to lay claim to the honour, have been honoured with it. And the most important person, who is missing in this list, is Mahatma Gandhi! By hindsight, it seems befitting, as he obviously stands much above even the Bharat Ratnas. VV Giri, K Kamaraj, MG Ramachandran and Rajiv Gandhi, were the controversial recipients, it was felt at that time, that they were being awarded with political motives rather than for their stellar credentials, though of course all of them did make their contributions to the nation in some way. But the lingering feeling remains whether they did enough to deserve the honour.

The last time the nation’s highest civilian award was announced was in 2001, the year it was given to two non-political personalities, but to a playback queen Lata Mangeshkar and Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan. Given the fierce politicking over Bharat Ratnas, this year may well be the seventh time in a row that the award is not announced. It’s an irony that our political leaders are fighting over an issue that is associated with dignity and self-respect. Indian politicians once again demonstrated how stupid they could be. We common people are the real Bharat Ratnas, for whom there is no difference between a Muslim, Tamil, Brahmin or a Bengali.

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