Mockery of the Bharat Ratna

    By Azizur Rahman for,

    Ever since the Government has announced its highest civilian award “Bharat Ratna” for Sachin Tendulkar, to be officially conferred on him on the occasion of the upcoming Republic Day of India on 26th January 2014 with much fanfare, it has triggered a massive debate on print and electronic media on who should be awarded and who should not, with groups and people advocating the conferment of this award on some and dissenting the same for others. The BJP which has been pressing for this award to Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a long time, has once again woken up suddenly from its slumber. As the party could not oppose the conferment of this award on Sachin for the obvious reason, it is trying to capitalize on this situation to steer some favor into Vajpayee’s direction. Though, I am not well aware of his credentials making him eligible for the award, probably it could be owing to his being a silent player for their cause though he was not as communally vocal as other stalwarts in his party.

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    Interestingly, awarding of Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar was also taken to the court by a petitioner challenging the bestowal of the honor on the just-retired cricketer and alleging conspiracy to ignore hockey legend Dhyan Chand. JDU’s Member of Parliament Shivanand Tiwar also advocated for Dhyan Chand questioned the award to Sachin.

    Suniel Shetty has come forward batting for the Bollywood, expressing surprise as to why the Bharat Ratna had not yet been awarded to any Bollywood star. In this respect, a facebook profile has already been created by a group of the film fraternity at the behest of Mahesh Bhatt to seek 100,000. supporting comments to be later complied in the form of a book and submitted to the President and the Prime Minister urging them for awarding the Bharat Ratna to Dilip Kumar.

    Leaving aside the above discourse on who is claiming what, let us think whether we can afford the Bharat Ratna to sportsmen/women and actors in a country like India where we still have a sizeable population reeling under the burden of abject poverty; where a substantial percentage of children is malnourished and where a large number of people, even in 21st century, do not have access to potable water, proper health care, quality education, convenient housing and transport and so on. In this state of affairs, even the India’s interplanetary Rs 450 crore mission which recently resulted in Mars Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25) being sent to Mars, is not justified, as there is no logic trying to see things that are crores of kilometers away and not being able to notice the glaring dark realities on the earth. It is pathetic that this coveted and prestigious award is gradually losing its sheen by ignoring many worthy and deserving personalities who have truly been making a difference in nation building.

    There has been a favorite sentence “I am playing for my country” commonly used by sports men/women. I fail to understand how they are playing for the nation and how the people are benefiting from the game except for the cheap entertainment on the cost of spending a fair amount of money and time. I do believe that they are not playing for the nation else they are playing for moneymaking and supplementing it with a number of commercial endorsements ranging from the sale of MRF Tires to the sale of biscuit and oil to satiate their insatiable hunger for money. They are also against the nation, as they are wasting the important time of the millions of people, particularly the time of the teenagers who need more time for their studies than for the game. It was not without greed that when Tendulkar in 2002 was gifted a Ferrari by the automobile giant Fiat, upon equaling the record of 29 Test centuries by Australian legend Don Bradman, he expected a waiver of the import duty on the car and got it, however when the matter became public in 2003, there was a strong protest over the waiver and a PIL in the Delhi High Court was filed. As the controversy snowballed, Fiat India agreed to pay the import duty. It would be fascinating to note that irked by the Government’s decision to waive the import duty, much to the shame for Tendulkar, the NGO Patit Pawan Sanghathana, went on a begging spree in Pune to pay the Ferrari’s duty and sent some amount to the cricketer through money order.

    Even if we look at the sport from a career’s perspective, only a handful of youth succeed, while the most of them end up frustrated getting neither this nor that. The unnecessary importance that is given to the sports has not gathered momentum automatically; else this crazy and sensational buzz has been created through an unfair and concerted wide coverage of sports equally by the print and electronic media. There is a host of television channels exclusively meant for broadcasting sport events. Almost all the news papers are so committed towards sports that they have dedicated some permanent pages for this. What worse thing could be there for the country, when we have professionally qualified sports’ editors? Even The Hindu, apart from the regular sports page on its daily, it boasts of publishing the weekly Sportstar separately. More painfully, we have even sports’ historians, for instance Boria Majumdar a noted sports historian. In addition to the above, there are academies being opened up for sports education and training.

    From the above observations, I do not intend to play down the importance of the sports in our life, shaping our physique and refreshing mood, else I only want to reinforce the idea that the role of sports should only be limited to the extent of a temporary entertainment and a source of refreshment and not to the extent where people get engrossed so much that they forget everything else.

    When it comes to owing allegiance to the country, the Bollywood fraternity is also on the same page and utters the so called patriotic sentence “I am doing so and so for my country”. They are absolutely right in their assertion as they are sparing no efforts in spreading obscenity and nudity that is one of the key reasons for the rampant cases of rapes and associated crimes. Therefore, the government has instituted various awards and accolades to honor those who excel in the art of helping our children attain their adulthood prematurely and then satisfy their appetite by taking recourse to rapes. And it may soon start awarding Bharat Ratna to this community as well. Probably, there would not be any person whose attention has not been caught by the movie “The Dirty Picture” released in 2011 bagging a number of awards. As this movie was full of exotic and intimate scenes, it had set the box office on fire and had been a huge blockbuster. The film won three National Film Awards from the government while Vidya Balan won the same award for the Best Actress as she excelled in exposing herself.

    So, if the government feels that the above contributions made by the sports and the films towards nation building are praiseworthy and appreciable, it should become even more committed, expanding the horizon of the Bharat Ratna by awarding it to the likes of Sunny Leon, the Indo-Canadian porn star who is more deserving than the Vidya Balan, as she is earning name and fame for her country through the absolute exposure of her body.

    I would like to conclude by stating that if I were the authorized person to confer the Bharat Ratna award, I would prefer honoring an honest primary school teacher on any player or actor as I do not attach any more importance to these slaves of money than that of a common man on the road.

    Azizur Rahman is originally from Uttar Pradesh and works for a multinational corporation in Chennai.