Do we need these awards?
Every time the season arrives with awards, media get filled with controversies. Every political party come up with some of their elderly and retired politicians. Whether they have actually contributed or just drained the nation is not of any concern. It is only how equally the awards are distributed among various political parties.
It is time to ask if the debate is worth it. The issue is not the choice for the award, but the award itself: Should we continue with state honours like Bharat Ratna and the Padma awards? Excellence in public life and other areas of activity should be recognised, of course. But is it the business of the government to hand out awards and honours. After all, what does the government know of cinema to award film stars and directors? Or, for that matter, does it have the credentials to reward a writer or a musician? Film societies and fans can do the job of recognising talent in cinema much better than the state, and perhaps, with far less controversy. The highest honour in the field of literature is the Jnanpith award that is given by a private trust. Government nominees decide Bharat Ratna and Padma awards and their choices are always disputed. Awards become a tool for patronage in the hands of the government.
Political lobbying and controversies only overrule the award by forgetting that awards conferred the merits and are never sought after.. Though one can consider some of the names of these politicians but the general question that comes to everyone's mind is – what are the criteria behind bestowing such a prestigious award? Do these politicians stand up to highest level of national service with a selfless attitude? If politicians in a democratic country like India are considered as corrupt, and self-interested then why cannot they be excluded from the list?
A TV channel had started a preposterous debate whether Bharat Ratna award should be conferred on youngsters like Sachin Tendulkar, a thought came whether these civilian awards can be dispensed with once and for all.. Janata government under Morarji Desai had very wisely suspended this during late Seventies for three years. The grant of awards to loyal people was a colonial custom and a relic of the past that we also decided to follow suit. Sachin Tendulkar may be a great cricketer and a highly visible personality made so by media and sponsors for their own commercial purposes. It is a moot point whether playing cricket for money is a public service. It will be a lamentable disservice to scores of doctors, human rights activists, officials, social service organizations, NGOs and many more such who silently toil giving their invaluable time and money to give better lives to the teeming millions with no expectation of reward or recognition.
One of the awardees of 2004 was Shahrukh Khan, Hindi movie actor. Distinguished service in his field - cinema? It is difficult to digest the fact that Shahrukh has been conferred with Padma Shri. Is success of commercial cinema been confused with distinguished service to the nation? It is a disgrace to all the revered people who have been honored with this award in the earlier years. And to make a joke of the whole procedure, it is given to Saif Ali Khan and Amir Khan as well .I don’t have a trace of idea of their contribution to the arts in India. Now that few Khans have been blessed, few Hindu stars would be on line next. If Mohanlal is given Padma ,how can they leave Mammooty ? It seems anyone with money and influence can purchase these awards.And dont you think in the case of Pookkutty, it was overdone? It was a joke that someone made his wax statue,and now a Padma award, for what? May be,the next election has something to do with it. Leaving Prof K N Pai, who was one of the most respected doctor and philanthropist, I don’t have any idea how these awards can be given away to some of the leading private practitioners, who have made it rich. I would have gladly welcomed if the late Dr C R Soman or the like were given these awards.
There are clouds and shadows everywhere related to these awards.
Sitar Maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan rejected the Padma Shri in 1964 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1968, saying the awards committee wasn't competent enough to judge his music. Historian Romila Thapar turned down the Padma Bhushan in 1992 and 2005 because she wanted to accept awards only from academic institutions. Even renowned vocalist Pandit Jasraj alleged that the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar had approached influential MPs to secure the coveted award in 1999. Kathak queen Sitara Devi refused the Padma Bhushan in 2002, saying it is an "insult" as younger and lesser known people had got Padma Vibhushan.
Bharat Ratnas too have had their share of controversies. The awards to V V Giri, K Kamaraj, MG Ramachandran and Rajiv Gandhi raised eyebrows.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan fumbled for words when asked about the list Kerala had forwarded to the central government recommending names for the Padma awards.The name of Pillai has come under a cloud because the younger son of Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is the vice-president of his company in the Middle East. It is being said that is the reason why Pillai's name was included in the list put up by the state government for the Padma awards. The inclusion of US-based Indian hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal in the list of Padma awardees is generating a lot of heat and controversy.The outrage is over the fact that Chatwal recently faced trial in an alleged $9 million bank fraud. He was briefly arrested in the case as well.
Only those who have worked for the welfare of the country in a spirit of sacrifice and service and make the lives of its people better and rich can be considered worthy of any recognition. A MotherTeresa or a Vinobha Bhave gave so much but took very little. There are many like them doing their work silently and effectively unsung and unhonoured. They will never be visible in the radars of the powers that be. They also attach scant regard for name and fame. Even politicians, except those who participated in the freedom struggle sacrificing their careers and families, do not qualify for recognition. Politics these days is a lucrative profession. It may surprise that more than fifty percent of Bharat Ratna awardees are drawn from the political class
“As genuine heroes and authentic role models have faded out of public space, the politician and the fixer have stepped in. The Padma awards too have got mired in controversy”, writes Harish Khare.(The Hindu)
Of late, there seems to be a mad rush to be branded, though the pretence is of disinterest. The assertion is invariably without credibility. The giver and the receiver both stand diminished. After all, a society is known by the awards it gives.