The Nobel Prize is awarded by a committee of five members that are appointed by Norwegian Parliament. According to the rules laid down by the Storting (Norwegian Parliament), election to the committee is for a six-year term, and members can be re-elected. The committee’s composition reflects the relative strengths of the political parties in the Parliament. Although this is not a requirement, all committee members have been Norwegian nationals.
The Bharat Ratna Award is the highest Indian Civilian award that was instituted on 2 January 1954. This award is conferred “in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order”, without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. The earlier awards were limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services. However, in Dec 2011, the criteria was expanded and it included “any field of human endeavour.”
Recommendations for the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to President with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year. Recipients receive a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a Peepal-leaf–shaped medallion. No monetary grant is associated with the award. It is constitutionally prohibited to use the award name as a title. This year, the award is given to Mr. Madan Mohan Malviya and Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The former was a multifaceted personality. He was an educationist who founded the Banaras Hindu University and became one of the torchbearers of the freedom struggle acting as a bridge between the Moderates and the Extremists. Mr. Malviya was known for his espousal of Hindu Nationalism. A social reformer, a freedom and a successful Parliamentarian and he had another feather in his cap – He was one of the initial leaders of the far-right Hindu Mahasabha.
The list of Bharat Ratan’s receivers includes CNR Rao, Sachin Tendulkar , Pandit himsen Gururaj Joshi, Ustad Bismillah Khan , Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Gopinath Bordoloi, Amartya Sen, Jayaprakash Narayan, Chidambaram Subramaniam, MS Subbulakshmi, APJ Abdul Kalam, Aruna Asaf Ali, Gulzarilal Nanda, Satyajit Ray, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhai Tata, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Morarji Desai, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajiv Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, BR Ambedkar, MG Ramachandran, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan ,Acharya Vinobha Bhave, Mother Teresa, K Kamraj, VV Giri, Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Pandurang Vaman Kane, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Rajendra Prasad,Purushottam Das Tandon , Bidhan Chandra Roy, Dhondo Keshave Karve, Govind Ballabh Pant ,Jawaharlal Nehru, Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, Bhagwan Das, Chandrasekhara Venkataraman , Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (1878-1972) – in 1954.
Looking at the hindsight, for many awards, there could a consensus but we can’t exonerate Congress Party that dispensed the award to its favorites. Favoritism has always been a social malady that had haunted the mankind since its inception. One of the most basic themes in ethics is fairness, stated this way by Artistotle: “Equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally.” Favoritism gives undue advantage to someone who does not necessarily merit this treatment. It undermines the common good. When someone is granted a position because of connections rather than because he or she has the best credentials that person undermines the dignity and prestige of award, the name that goes with it makes it inferior. Favoritism is often covert and undercuts the transparency that should be part of government’s behavior.
I feel that posthumous awards are useless in most of the cases. The winner is dead. His contributions are there in the recorded history for the generations of come. It makes no difference to him or those who remember and respect him / her. This award also shouldn’t include the politicians whether alive or dead. These luminaries have always represented a particular point or view which could have been wider or insular. They are always controversial.
I welcome with all my heart if the award was given to Field Marshal Manekshaw, Dada Bhai Amte or Dilip Kumar; I can understand if the Bharat Ratna is awarded to Dalai Lama. However, if Mr. Madan Mohan Malvia was a genuine nominee for this award, so was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Madan Mohan founded Banaras Hindu University and Syed Ahmed was the founder of Aligarh Muslim University.
The name of Shree Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the latest Bharat Ratna was long awaiting in queue and he is known for his sterling qualities as a politician, parliamentarian, statesman, poet and for his grit. However, there are few splotches also at upon his otherwise brilliant record. The Gujarat massacre took place when he was heading the center. He had taken an active part in the campaign to raze the Babri Masjid. And Mr. Balraj Madhok, the founder of Jan Sangh had written in his memoirs unkindly about him.
Madhok is very critical even today of Vajpayee and Advani and has not even a single good word for either of them. “When I criticized Nehru in Parliament in the wake of the Chinese aggression, Vajpayee came up to me and told me that I will never be elected to Lok Sabha again. Acharya Kriplani who was sitting nearby told me that do not take him( Vajpayee) seriously since he is Nehru’s planted man in the opposition”.
Madhok also said that attempts were made to subvert the party’s basic ideology by Vajpayee and some others. They talked about Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s humanism, which was nothing original but borrowed from the thesis of MN Roy and applied to Sangh politics. (Reference – The Hindustan Time, Pankaj Vohra on Wednesday, June 24, 2009).
Last but not the least, like the Nobel Committee, a group of Worthy Individuals who are dispassionate and experts in their fields, nominated by Indian Parliament, should be constituted to recommend the names of award winners to the President of India who is a Neutral Authority by dint of his position.
In absence of a convincing body, the award, I fear, would lose its luster.
By: Naim Naqvi