Wednesday, March 3, 2010


This one's going to be extensive. Many news channels have been debating now whether Sachin Tendulkar deserves the Bharat Ratna (India's highest civilian award). A number of past cricketers have come out in his support. A number of politicians are backing this movement and gaining political mileage.

The official website of the Government of India states: "Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian honour, given for exceptional service towards advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of Public Service of the highest order."

Note here that there is no mention of excellence in sports as well as many other fields. The list of Bharat Ratna awardees till date is given below (reverse chronological order):

• Pandit Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi (Arts : 2009 : India : Karnataka)
• Kumari Lata Dinanath Mangeshkar (Arts : 2001 : India : Maharashtra)
• Late. Ustad Bismillah Khan (Arts : 2001 : India : Uttar Pradesh)
• Prof. Amartya Sen (Literature & Education : 1999 : United Kingdom)
• Lokpriya Gopinath (posth.) Bordoloi (Public Affairs : 1999 : India : Assam)
• Loknayak Jayprakash (Posth.) Narayan (Public Affairs : 1999 : India : Bihar)
• Pandit Ravi Shankar (Arts : 1999 : United States)
• Shri Chidambaram Subramaniam( Public Affairs : 1998 : India : Tamil Nadu)
• Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi (Arts : 1998 : India : Tamil Nadu)
• Shri (Dr.) A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (Science & Engineering. : 1997 : India : Delhi)
• Smt. Aruna Asaf (Posth.) Ali (Public Affairs : 1997 : India : Delhi)
• Shri Gulzari Lal (Shri) Nanda (Public Affairs : 1997 : India : Gujarat)
• Shri Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhai Tata (Trade & Industry : 1992 : India : Maharashtra)
• Shri Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (Public Affairs : 1992 : India : West Bengal)
• Shri Satyajit Ray (Arts : 1992 : India : West Bengal)
• Shri Morarji Ranchhodji Desai (Public Affairs : 1991 : India : Gujarat)
• Shri Rajiv Gandhi (Public Affairs : 1991 : India : Delhi)
• Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Public Affairs : 1991 : India : Gujarat)
• Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedakr (Public Affairs : 1990 : India : Maharashtra)
• Dr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Public Affairs : 1990 : South Africa)
• Shri Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran (Public Affairs : 1988 : India : Tamil Nadu)
• Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Social Work : 1987 : Pakistan)
• Shri Acharya Vinoba Bhave (Social Work : 1983 : India : Maharashtra)
• Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu Teresa (Social Work : 1980 : India : West Bengal)
• Shri Kumaraswamy Kamraj (Public Affairs : 1976 : India : Tamil Nadu)
• Shri V.V. Giri (Public Affairs : 1975 : India : Orissa)
• Smt. Indira Gandhi (Public Affairs : 1971 : India : Uttar Pradesh)
• Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri (Public Affairs : 1966 : India : Uttar Pradesh)
• Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane (Social Work : 1963 : India : Maharashtra)
• Dr. Zakir Hussain (Public Affairs : 1963 : India : Andhra Pradesh)
• Dr. Rajendra Prasad (Public Affairs : 1962 : India : Bihar)
• Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy (Public Affairs : 1961 : India : West Bengal)
• Shri Purushottam Das Tandon (Public Affairs : 1961 : India : Uttar Pradesh)
• Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve (Social Work : 1958 : India : Maharashtra)
• Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant (Public Affairs : 1957 : India : Uttar Pradesh)
• Dr. Bhagwan Das (Literature & Education : 1955 : India : Uttar Pradesh)
• Shri Jawaharlal Nehru (Public Affairs : 1955 : India : Uttar Pradesh)
• Dr. M. Vishweshwariah (Civil Service : 1955 : India : Karnataka)
• Shri Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (Public Affairs : 1954 : India : Tamil Nadu)
• Dr. Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (Science & Engineering. : 1954 : India : Tamil Nadu)
• Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (Public Affairs : 1954 : India : Tamil Nadu)

No sportsman has ever won this award. The most interesting entry for me in the above list is that of Shri Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhai Tata. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna for excellence in 'Trade & Industry'. JRD Tata's award indicates that even SRT is eligible for the award. Advancement of or excellence in 'Trade & Industry' is not listed as a criteria for being conferred this honour, similar to 'Sports'. So if JRD Tata has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, even SRT can be.

Now comes the question of who deserves it. In the Indian Order of Precedence, a holder of the Bharat Ratna is on par with Former Prime Ministers of India, Union Cabinet Ministers and Leaders of Chief Opposition in both houses of Parliament. A Bharat Ratna awardee ranks higher than the Judges of Supreme Court of India, Chief Election Commissioner and Members of Parliament. So a person whose name is being put forth as a recipient of this honour must really command respect.

Command respect! That is one thing that SRT always does. Be it within his team, amongst the opposition, amongst the crowd (home and away) or even amongst the general public, Sachin Tendulkar commands respect for his performances as well as behaviour. But, as great a fan I am of SRT, I do not think that he should be conferred with the Bharat Ratna award now.

I certainly do think that SRT deserves it - there is no doubt in my mind in that regard. But the award can wait till he retires. He certainly deserves to be placed on par with the Former Prime Ministers and Union Cabinet Ministers (in my mind, he is much better than many of those who belong to such a category). Nevertheless, we can wait for some time before making it official.

Let him achieve all that he can on the cricket field. And once he's done, he can be decorated. News channels have taken the debate to a different level by saying that even the likes of Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar have done as much as Sachin Tendulkar. Even they have been an inspiration for a generation of youngsters.

The media is forgetting the fact that this is the highest civilian honour in India that we are debating about. As far as I am concerned, Sunil Gavaskar is out of question. With due respect to his cricketing abilities and courage as well as his contribution to the game, his conduct never set an example for the younger generation. SRT has been on the receiving end of various dubious umpiring decisions, but he has never walked off the ground along with his batting partner. SRT has always batted for a win, no matter how improbable it may seem. You would never see him bat out 60 overs for a 36*.

In Kapil Dev's case, it is a good debate. Kapil toiled hard for his country - and his behaviour was never questionable. He captained India to her only ODI World Cup win in 1983. His honesty was questioned during the match fixing scandal of 2000, but he came out of it clean. Does he deserve the award? That is a question for whoever approves the list of Bharat Ratna awardees.

But while talking about SRT, let us not measure his credentials against the past greats who have not been conferred with this honour. Who deserves it is a different question for every different individual. Forgive the cliche, but to my mind, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar himself is a Bharat Ratna.

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