Dr Ravindra Agrawal
The UPA government decision to honour Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar and scientist Dr CNR Rao with highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, has started a heated debate in the country. In this debate, the comment of Dr Rao was lost, which he made immediately in his first reaction after the announcement of the Award. He said had Homi Jehangir Bhabha been honoured with this highest award he would not have left the country. This comment of Dr Rao speaks volumes for the procedure involved in the selection or the criterion adopted for identifying the individuals for these civilian awards raising a big question mark on it.
Normally, it is expected and understood that those individuals who notably contribute for the country, society and human welfare are selected for such awards. But the lists for these awards every year include the names that are seen only in these lists for the first and last time. This breaks the thinking and compels the nation to think whether there is any criteria and standard to select the names? When some particular names are suggested to the government, they are honoured by the government neglecting the recommendations of its own Ministry.
This concept gets strength when we do not see the names of agriculture scientists Dr MS Swaminathan and Dr Norman Barlog in the list of Bharat Ratna awardees. It is impertinent to say here that these two agricultural scientists initiated steps to lift the country from food shortage and subsequently from the indirect slavery of America. The country still shudders remembering the days when India was forced to eat the rotten wheat imported from the USA on their terms under the PL 480 Agreement. These two farm scientists with their untiring efforts brought the country out of that insulting situation through ‘green revolution’. Now we can export the grains to other countries. Not only this, even in the period of economic sluggish, the Finance Minister sees the ray of hope in agriculture sector the credit to introduce modern methods in this goes invariably to these two scientists. Today, we do not see their names in the list of Bharat Ratna awardees. For whose recommendations we are waiting for?
It is told that Bharat Ratna is given for making India’s name shine in other countries. Let us see how the government treats those who really make our country’s name shine in the world. Almost entire world knows that techies from India are the very soul of Silicon Valley and the achievements of Microsoft were incomplete sans Indians. Indians are playing a vital role in Britain’s health sector. Because of the efforts of these countless Indians the image of our country has changed to a positive one, which until recently was a very negative with a majority people outside India presumed India as a home of snake charmers and beggars. What has the government done for those countless Indians who made our country’s name shine in the world with their efforts and grit? The government did not even pat Dr Hargovind Khurana, Dr Subramaniam Chandrashekhar, and Dr Venkat Raman Ramakrishnan, who were given Nobel Prize for their remarkable contribution in their respective fields of science.
Dr CNR Rao’s another grudge is sufficient funds are not granted to carry out scientific research in India. I, however, feel that the government is not large hearted enough to acknowledge the efforts and contribution of the scientists and encourage them.
It would not be fair to blame the government entire for entirely neglecting these worthy sons and daughters of Mother India. Yes, the government does not overlook them. The Finance Minister of the country is more interested in the pounds and dollars earned by these Indians so that he can make up the current account deficit with them which has become a major problem caused by unmindful import-export for the sake of neo-rich class in the society.
The political controversy over these civilian awards also pointed to the neglect of those freedom fighters whose sacrifice surpassed the three leaders belonging to one single family who had been honoured with Bharat Ratna. Does this fact need an opinion poll to substantiate its legitimacy that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad still revered by millions of Indian today? The name of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is also doing rounds in this discussion and his name was suggested by more of the UPA partners who are at pains for the neglect of Vajpayee than the BJP itself. But once Bharat Ratna is bestowed on Vajpayeeji then it becomes imperative for the Congress to acknowledge and recognise his contribution to the country. Maybe, for this reason the Congress is also neglecting former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao too because this is an open secret now that the Congress can’t digest achievements of any other leader than the Gandhi-Nehru family.
Civilian awards are also given to those who work in social sector. But this is reserved for those who collect foreign funds and work in this country. Otherwise what is the justification for not including institutions like Ramakrishna Mission, Mata Amritanandamayee devi and Pingalwada institute working in Punjab? Arya Samaj and DAV institutes are doing yeoman’s services in the girls’ education sector, but they have also been out of the government radar’s reach; why?
Before we conclude, let us go into the depth of the game being played for Bharat Ratna. The discussion would be incomplete for not mentioning a point of neglect of sportspersons of the stature of Dhyan Chand, the magician of Hockey for the top civilian award. The Sports Ministry had recommended the name of Dhyan Chand for Bharat Ratna. No one knows where this recommendation has gone?
The concerns relating to these civilian awards are being expressed only because there is no set procedure and criterion and no law that governs the selection of the awardees. There is no transparency either. Had this been so, the awards would not have been caught in the controversy of any kind. These controversies do eclipse the prestige of these awards. It would be better and in tune with time that we formulate some transparent procedure and a high-level committee comprising Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Speaker of the Lpk Sabha, Prime Minister and Leaders of Opposition from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha to select the individuals and institutions for bestowing such highest civilian awards.
(The writer is senior journalist and former associate editor of Dainik Jagran)