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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bharat Ratna

I am not a sports person. The highest level that I could ever achieve was to play in Inter-IIT. And I won't call myself a cricket enthusiast, though I have a son who is crazy about it. I have watched exactly one ODI, World Cup Quarter final in March 2011 at Ahmedabad, where Sachin scored a half century, though I am looking forward to the ODI in Kanpur later this month. And yet, I felt nice when the Government announced a Bharat Ratna for Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Nice enough that I looked up some information about the awards on wikipedia.

All the media is full of reports that Sachin is the youngest recipient. Actually, he is the ONLY recipient born in independent India. In terms of birth year, the next one would be Rajeev Gandhi, who was born in 1944. And if exclude posthumous awards, the next year of birth would be 1934. Yes, we are referring to Prof. C N R Rao. The youngest recipient living at the time of award was Indira Gandhi who received it in her 54th year (as opposed to 41st year for Sachin).

The oldest recipient was Maharishi Karve who received it in his centenary year, and if we include posthumous awards (and consider the gap between birth year and year of award), the oldest would be Sardar Patel (b. 1875, awarded, 1991). Out of 43 recipients (including the two announced today), 22 were born in 19th century.

Mostly the award is given at an advanced age. Besides Indira Gandhi and Sachin (and Rajeev Gandhi, if you include posthumous awards), there is no other recipient who was younger than 65 years at the time of award. Infact, out of 30 awards to living individuals prior to this announcement, 7 passed away in the year of the award or the next, and 15 passed away within 5 years. The longest survivor is Nelson Mandela, who already has enjoyed the award for 23 years. The next best was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who lived for 21 years after the award.

Sachin should have got it two years ago, just after the World Cup victory in 2011. However, there was a technical problem. The award criteria said that it is only for highest achievements in arts, literature, science and public life. But after the world cup, the government decided to change the criteria and made it for highest achievements in any field. Interestingly, it was almost never given for literature (in the sense that people like Dr. Kane also had a significant impact in public life). And in Science, we have had C V Raman, Amartya Sen, and now C N R Rao. The only engineer to have received it was Visvesvarayya, unless you wish to include Kalam as Scientist or Engineer. The only industrialist has been J R D Tata.

With so many voices asking the government to confer Bharat Ratna on Sachin, I have been thinking of others who could be considered. I was really hoping that whenever Government announces Bharat Ratna (was expecting the announcement in January, not now), it would include Ratan Tata and N R Narayana Murthy. And when V Anand retires from Chess, he too would be given the same honor.


Sushant Singh said...

Sir, you missed the name of Legend Major Dhyan Chand..!

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

It was deliberate. While he is a bigger hero for me than any other sports person (I prefer hockey to cricket), I believe that having posthumous awards only result in political bickering, emotional decisions, and like. And also, it is extremely difficult to understand and compare one's contributions made 80 years ago. If we have to go back that long, why not Mahatama Gandhi and why not a whole lot of freedom fighters. Why not Bhagat Singh. The list is endless.

Vinayak Naik said...

I feel like Mahatma Gandhi, Dhyan Chand is above awards.

Saurabh Joshi said...

Dear Sir,
Thanks for bringing out nice statistics. Also, thanks for suggesting that Anand is a well deserving candidate for the prestigious award. In my personal opinion, Anand has done so much more for chess than Sachin has done for cricket. India was a cricket frenzied nation before Sachin made his debut, but such was not the case when Anand became the first Grandmaster from India. Having a role-model has a huge impact in any field. Today, India has the highest number of FIDE rated players in the world. I don't think it would have been possible if we did not have a role-model like Anand. I personally think that the government should not wait for Anand to retire to appreciate his contribution.