I belong to a generation where the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar was the most prized possession for a bowler. In a cricket frenzy India, the stakes of any intensely volatile cricket match are immensely high. And then players like Tendulkar carry immense responsibilities and weight on their shoulders. As Sachin reached the zenith of his achievements, so his aura diversified to other arenas. A book, a movie and even a Rajya Sabha nomination. Finally, all his life achievements were capped into a glorious recognition in the form of a Bharat Ratna.
A debate over Tendulkar’s selection at the last minute by the UPA govt of the time did raise a lot of eye brows. The questions were not about the candidature for the highest civilian award. Sachin is impeccably one of the greatest inspirational sports icon to have ever lived in the country and truly is deserving. The onus was on deriving political benefits out of the same. As CNR Rao and Sachin were honoured that particular year, murmurs of a last-minute selection over hockey legend Dhyan Chand spoke volumes of seeming political interference in awards.
So, when we speak about a wholly of such recognitions in form of Padma Bhushan, Vibhusan and Padma Shri, somewhere closeness to the political power of the day has mired adjudgment and evoked favouritism in the same. The other aspect is the hobnobbing of the politicians for these awards cutting across party lines. So perhaps if a deserving nomination of former PM AB Vajpayee may have those desired merits to receive a Bharat Ratna, it will be encountered with a counter balance demands for other party stalwarts too.
So BSP Supremo Mayawati calling for Kashiram or for that matter SP rooting Mulayam Singh in lieu with Bharat Ratna becomes an obvious battle of political cesspool over awards. Politicians being bestowed with such honours may raise questions and will open another line of debate however at least a political slugfest over the same can be certainly avoided. Just as Filmfare awards are said to be biased or given according to the whims and fancies of camps and appeasement, civilian awards may have garnered the same sorry glaring effects.
With Tendulkar, the monumental achievements speak for themselves even if the UPA may have twisted the whole affair into a controversy. So Sachin getting a Ratna is perfectly binding to the aspirational patriotic fervour of the youth and all the countrymen and any politicising by the govt then gets automatically nipped in the bud.
However, when Sharad Pawar is exalted to a Padma Vibhushan Award, civilian awards lose their meaning.
Even if we may consider politicians for such awards there ought to be some degree of qualifying criteria for the same. So, if I give best parliamentarian award to BJP veteran LK Advani, he deserves it on the basis of his impeccable attendance and asking questions along with seniority and experience in Lok Sabha. But just for the sake being a political heavyweight or a record number of times being CM, you cannot give it to somebody like Laloo Yadav. There has to be a drawing line in the due selection process as again bestowing such honours is creating exemplary examples for public life and they cannot be muddied by too much of an unceremonious taint.
And at the same time when award for Sharad Pawar was announced, Indian batting legend Rahul Dravid was conferred with a PHD degree by the Bangalore university.
And he set an example by refusing the same believing he didn’t deserve it and offered himself to do an academic research in sports before earning the said degree.
Perhaps awards are given to motivate as well as shower respect to phenomenal accomplishment. Even if the case of Rahul Dravid and Sharad Pawar fall in different categories and are not related, the essence and the theme overlap into an important reality. Recognition needs to be scrutinised to inspire and not ridicule.
There may be oodles of layers and systemic processes to pick up individuals for respective awards. And perhaps someone like Sharad Pawar may fit the bill as allegations against him of any sort are unproven. Yet the basic bare minimum sanctity of highest civilian awards needs to be safe guarded from dubious choices.
On a lighter note if Pawar opts for an award wapasi in future, please we ought to accept it with glee.