Padma Awards row: Is it time for government to Revamp the Entire Process?

(This article is from Economic Times of 1/6/15 by Shamya Dasgupta, a timely topic for all to read and react constructively. Should only the crying child alone be given the milk and not the starving and deserving one? Honor will run after the deserving like the shadow and should run away from the one who runs after it. The last section of people to be considered for Padmabhooshan awrds are  politicians  and those who do the “cheer girls’s job” in sports and film world, is my view. In today’s Modi era of development. Real Achievers in the fields of health, education, poverty eradication and invention should be given top priority, I wrote once. Please come up with your critique and constructive suggestions. Dr James kottoor)

       By Shamya Dasgupta, in Economic Times, Jan.6/026

The Saina Nehwal v Sushil Kumar saga around the Padma Bhushan award is about the most distasteful sequence of events in Indian sport in a long time. Indeed, there are so many wrongs – both with the episode and the way the Padma awardees are decided upon to start with – that one wonders where to begin.

Nehwal’s conduct, details of which have been splashed across media platforms for a couple of days now, is disturbing, of course. But the norms, which require athletes to ‘apply’ for the awards and approach the Sports Ministry to plead their cases, are about as awful as can be. Indeed, Nehwal happens to have landed herself in the middle of the muddle – the problem goes well beyond her.

“Last year, when I had sent my file for the Padma Bhushan award, the ministry said, ‘No Saina, you can’t apply this year because you have to complete five years for this.’ So I again applied this year for the award. So why my name was [sic] not recommended this year?” Nehwal was expressing her disappointment at Sushil being placed above her in the pecking order for the Padma Bhushan award for 2015. Is she better than Sushil? Is Sushil better than her? Is the system rigged? Are there biases at play here? The answers to all those questions are ‘maybe’, followed by ‘but irrelevant’.

Let’s start at the beginning. Saina Nehwal and Sushil Kumar aren’t nonentities. The two are among the most prominent sportspersons in India, both of them Olympic medallists. Why do they need to apply for their awards?

Yet, inconceivable as it may sound, they will not win any of these awards if they don’t apply for them. Think about it: Abhinav Bindra, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Leander Paes, Karnam Malleswari and others like them must put together a file of their achievements, send it to the Sports Ministry in good time every year, and ask for the Padma Shri or Padma Bhushan or Padma Vibhushan or Khel Ratna to be given to them.

Sportspersons, artists, musicians, scientists, social reformers, writers, politicians and so on… you might well have changed the world, but if you don’t apply in time, our government will not recognise your achievements. This can’t be right. And it is one major reason why we have such controversies so often.

Why not have the Home Ministry’s Padma Awards Committee handle the entire process? Surely that committee should be clued in enough to not require applications. If they are not, why not? How does the government decide the constitution of the committee? The committee typically has a mix of bureaucrats and prominent citizens. What exactly is their job? To just sign off on applications? Why does there need to be a gap of five years between Padma awards, though this could be relaxed, as was done in Sushil’s case? On to the speci f ic instance of Nehwal’s conduct now. There is no denying that it has been disappointing, and distressing.

Nehwal is an outstanding athlete, competing hard against the best in the world and coming up trumps often. She has won Super Series titles in three continents, an Olympic Games medal, has been ranked No. 2 in the world, and she is all of 24 – she’ll be 25 in March. She is someone that Indian sports, not just badminton, fans follow closely; her exploits are celebrated.

Why does she have to demand to be honoured? Why does she have to demean herself, get into slanging matches in public, list out her achievements — as she did on Saturday, when talking about what she has achieved since 2010, when she was awarded the Padma Shri?

What does it say of Nehwal? She has even said that she doesn’t mind sharing the award with Sushil. And, amazingly, the Sports Ministry on Monday, recommended Saina’s name for the award.

No, no, no, this is not how these things should be done. If these are among the highest civilian awards India has to offer her greatest achievers, the exercise itself must maintain some sort of decorum.

It is only fair that Nehwal expects the nation to recognise her efforts and honour her back, but her main job is to bring honours for her country, and herself.

At the same time, irrespective of whether or not she has conducted herself with the dignity required of her status, the point is that she should not be put in a spot where she has to demand that honour.

If Sushil is the fair choice for the award in 2014, it should go to him. And if Nehwal is the next in line, she should wait for Sushil to descend the stage before collecting her award. That’s the dignified thing to do. Still, the question is not only what all of this says of Saina. It is also, mainly, this: does a haphazard, unjust system leave room for such conventions?

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