Much like my office , even for award of Padma shri, Padma Bhushan etc –we need to pause and think. Are we honouring only those who are shameless enough to come and demand it …either themselves or through their patrons? And what is the criterion? What is the contribution of these people for the nation? Madhuri Dixit for example….she may be an able actress , a good dancer and a very talented person...but what is her distinguished contribution for film industry? Perhaps it will be fully justified if a film federation honour her for her abilities but why is our state honouring her? Did she ever consciously created opportunities for others ...was her being there beneficial/uplifting /encouraging to others in a great way ? Was she not just concentrating on her career ...much like most of us ? Then there is Vinod Dua who after decades of fearless journalism will get the same honour as Ms.Barkha Dutt….just because of the latter’s good political connections. I don’t think Barkha Dutt by any standard deserve to get Padma Shri so early in her career. I have nothing against her age but what is her contribution? Is it significant enough for such a state honour? Same is the case of Rajdeep Sardesai. I know at least a dozen other newsmen and newswomen who are far more committed to news and public service through news, than these well known vendors of yellow journalism. But what they lack is the political connections of these hi-profile journalists.
Sachin Tendelukar is definitely a hero. A youth icon par excellence. But by playing good cricket for India – for which he was suitably (if not too generously) rewarded, he committed the similar stature of service what Ratan Tata did though his business and charity!...Sorry I disagree.Sachin's success needs to be recognised but his contribution in his field is no way near to Ratan Tata's in his. Excellence in public life and other areas of activity should be recognized, of course. But who is deciding that and how? For me Dhirubhai Ambani is more of a Bharat Ratna than Rajiv Gandhi is. Dhirubhai was the first Indian industrialist to cater to the needs of the small investor. He introduced the equity cult in small towns in India. He also single-handedly revitalized the Indian capital market, by focusing on capital appreciation instead of dividend, which was the norm .His companies are globally admired for their rapid and time-bound implementation methods . Dhirubhai was also the first industrialist in India to build factories comparable to the best in the world. Narayan Murti deserves it much more than many politicians for tuning the young India on the right track of IT revolution . Ratan Tata deserved Bharat Ratna much before the names which were being coined by various political parties. He not only worked for his own profit but also showed a new way for an entire generation of businessmen on how business and ethics can go hand in hand. Today when his companies are in more number of countries than Indian Embassies are- creating employment opportunities for millions of young Indians , why can’t this nation acknowledge that he brought much more wealth to India than one reluctant son who inherited the Prime Ministership from his mother and concentrated more on bribes than his job. O yes, Rajiv Gandhi was killed in terrorist attack…but was it not his foolish decision that killed hundreds of our soldiers at Sri Lanka ? The highest civilian award of the country, the Bharat Ratna, has been trivialized with politicians throwing their weight around and demanding the honour be bestowed on their party leaders. Today all these state honours are simply a reflection of populist choices and not the prudent ones.
State awards today are a hangover of monarchy. Kings gave away titles to various people as recognition of their loyalty to the throne. But, should democracies continue with this tradition that gives fancy titles to a few privileged citizens? Privileged -because either media or their political connections ensured their inclusion in politicians’ good books .
I was writing this post when I saw that all news channels are going gaga about the Bachchan Family’s great contribution for Education of girls .They were going to start construction of a Girls’ College near Lucknow in the name of daughter in law Aishwarya . Oh, what a showoff it was! One college….in one district from a family of country’s two highest tax payers , stars who earn hundreds of crores in a year and our media is impressed. It was a full fledged drama where no one spoke about girl’s education…. not even the sitting MP Jaya Bachchan …it was all about the family – and friends like Amar Singh and their great deeds.The Bachchan parivar, of course, put in a virtuoso performance. Clad in saris and heads draped demurely, Jaya and Aishwarya played UP bahus to the hilt. I quietly remembered the man who is today spending maximum amount of money on education in India –Azim Premji. The one who has humility enough not to climb these podiums and cry out his own greatness. I thought of several other traditional business families who open schools , dharamshalas and old age homes in the memory of family members but never bother to boast of it except for a plaque in front of the institution . Media is not interested in them. They are not interested in media either . Tomorrow if you hear the Bachchan family members being given Padma Bhushan for their contribution in the field of girls’ education …do not bother to get surprised, we live in the country where self marketing is the buzzword of success and well only greatness that matters is what you see on your TV screen .
Talking of office honorarium again , one of my senior at Jaipur was constantly harassed by the inefficiency of her peon. The old bugger will come late, will crib if asked to do even a small job and was not even polite to her. While finalizing the list of honorarium for that year , I was surprised to find the peon’s name recommended by this lady . I asked her why she is recommending his name. She looked at me wide eyed and screamed – “Do you think I will be able to survive one day, if I don’t? This fella will kill me by his 24 hour cribbing .” Now if at this small level ,people can create such pressures, I am sure for Padma awards pressures will be tremendous .The message is clear, honour in public life these days , is demanded not earned. It is political decision and not a rational one.