India’s Civilian Awards are Hardly Based on Merit

It is Politics that Determines the Winners

India’s civilian awards, including the Bharat Ratna, have largely been politics-based decisions and not just on merit. So, last year when cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was chosen for the country’s highest honour, overlooking hockey legend Dhyan Chand, it was evident his Congress connection clinched it for him.

Sachin deserved it but Dhyan Chand will have been the right choice given that it was the first year the Bharat Ratna was being opened to sportspersons as well.

India’s National Game: Reports have it today that the “Flying Sikh”, Milkha Singh, has raised the issue again, arguing that Dhyan Chand, who weaved magic with the stick to help India win three gold medals at the Olympics (1928, 1932 and 1936) deserved it.

Hockey was India’s national sport and the only game where we had been winning Olympic medals from the start. The game in India is synonymous with Dhyan Chand who, it is believed, was offered German citizenship by Adolph Hitler who had watched the hockey star play with bare feet to score goals and humble Germany in the Berlin Olympics.

Dhyan Chand, as a true patriot, declined as he played for the country and for the love of the game, not for money or rewards unlike those of the day who seek both and market themselves for that.

Even cricketing great Don Bradman, after watching Dhyan Chand play, is reported to have remarked that “he scores goals like runs in cricket.”

Milkha Singh has also rightly faulted Saina Nehwal for demanding the Padma Bhushan recently. The Modi government succumbed to the pressure from her and recommended her subsequently.

Unlike the Nobel Prize, the Bharat Ratna is awarded even posthumously. So, it should not have been an issue giving it to Dhyan Chand last year.

But even Mahatma Gandhi has not got the Bharat Ratna so far. History will remember Dhyan Chand as one of India’s greatest sportsmen ever, with or without the Bharat Ratna!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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