Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Jewel in India’s Crown for seven years!

It is a sad reflection on the state of affairs in India that a nation of more than a billion people hasn’t had a single jewel who could be honoured with a Bharat Ratna without raising a single eyebrow, for the last seven years.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 26 Jan 2008 Views:1569 Comments:2

BHARAT RATNA, a jewel in the nation’s crown, was withheld for the seventh year in a row. The government, it seems, tried to steer clear of the controversy that this highest civilian award was recently mired in.

Sehanai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan and singer Lata Mangeskar were the last recipients of Bharat Ratna, in 2001.

The government’s troubleshooter Pranab Mukherjee, a smiling suave Bhadralok (gentleman), became the lone politician to receive the second highest award Padma Vibhushan, with twelve others. Officially, his name ranked under the sub-category ‘public affairs’.

He is the second politician to have been conferred with the second highest award from the Padma (lotus) group of honours, after Sikander Bakht, in 2000, who was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led cabinet.

The Congress felt Mukherjee “…thinks of the country while framing policies. One of the country’s greatest veterans, he has made immense contributions in the Parliament and outside,” stated M Veerappa Moily, chief spokesperson of the party.

It is worth recalling that LK Advani had proposed Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s name for the highest civilian award. It created quite a bit of heat and dust, which is not likely to settle down soon.

The firebrand leader of BJP, Sushma Swaraj felt that the government could have spared itself from being insinuated, “if Atalji and Mukherjee were both awarded. Passing up Atalji smacks of subjectivity.” She agreed that Mukherjee got this award for his public service and not because he is a senior minister.

Mukherjee’s name from amongst a list of 119 Padma awardees might create more debate in the days to come.

We need to ask ourselves a simple question, should any politician be considered for civilian awards. They choose to serve the public of their own accord. In fact, it is a part of their mandate or their key result areas (KRAs). If they do a good job they help themselves and their parties win elections. If not, then the leader and his party are punished.

Returning to the issue of Bharat Ratna, it is rather clear that the government has been playing a game of snakes and ladders with the prestigious awards. Acts, such as these, terribly erode the prestige and honour of the avowed awards.

Further, the denial mode of the establishment reminds one of a terribly strict parent-teacher archetype. When children quarrel for a particular toy, snatch it from all. ‘Discipline’ rather than ‘discussion’ seems to be the mantra that we are so used to.

But, isn’t the negation a little too stretched out? Do we mean to say that in these seven years India, with over a billion people, has not produced one jewel in the crown?

We, in merinews, feel that a more accountable and transparent system should be in place for short-listing awardees. It should not include any political leader, no matter what the official sub-category states. We invite a public debate on the subject.

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