Bharat Ratna is Hindi for Jewel of India and represents the highest award a civilian can receive. It is officially conferred by the Government “in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour”.
Usually it is the Prime Minister who makes a recommendation to the President, selecting three nominees each year. C V Raman, Rajagopalachari, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Lal Bahadur Shastri are a few of the Indians to have been honoured.
M G Ramachandran received as did Abdul Kalam, JRD Tata, Nelson Mandela and Atal Bihari Bajpayee. In recent times it is Sachin Tendulkar who received the award. Each one certainly fulfils the criteria for the Bharat Ratna award and one does not wish to take away anything from their achievements in their respective fields.
However, the award and the way it is conferred do raise speculations. For one, we do not see any social activist figuring on the list. The lone exception is Mother Teresa but then she was an iconic figure who did not need awards. The world knew and loved her.
Back to the point is that the Prime Minister’s office is responsible for selection of the nominees. In the past Indira Gandhi gave Bharat Ratna to herself. Given the way Indian political system works, one cannot entirely rule out political considerations. Does the Prime Minister’s office call for a vote by the people asking them to nominate who they think deserves the Bharat Ratna? No. In a democracy, the decision is made by a clique.
Should the people be allowed to have a vote in who gets the Bharat Ratna, an award instituted by the Government? Well, why not? It would be interesting to see who receives maximum nominations in each region.
There are unsung heroes who would be uncovered. Equally, there will be others who will try to grab a prestigious award. There are always two sides to a coin.
Anyway, the term “Bharat Ratna” itself means Jewel of India and should it not be given to a person who truly shines as someone who has done a whole lot for the people and for the country?
If an individual performer receives the award it does not create any waves in the public consciousness—it is just one of those government things. Let the people decide and the winners will be people one did not expect, people who deserve it and people who will inspire.