Opinion

The Bharat Ratna lottery

Vithal Rajan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on November 19, 2013

It's a merry-go-round!

Every Indian who votes deserves the top honour.



After floundering for months, the government must have been tolerably confident that its populist award of the Bharat Ratna to India’s cricketing star would be universally cheered. But along with the cheers have come a host of demands that the award be retroactively given to various famous personalities of the past. The government should immediately accede to all these demands with alacrity.

The TV serial, Jodhaa Akbar, has led to animated discussions about the Mughal emperor and his harem. He certainly should be awarded the Bharat Ratna. Then, why not Ashoka? And what about Tughlak? History would be so dull without him. And the heroic Rani of Jhansi? To show that we do not bear any ill will towards the Brits, should we not honour Sir Arthur Cotton, the builder of the Godavari barrage? That could also help assuage the hurt feelings of the Seemaandhra crowd. We also need to stop the mouths of Hindutva critics. aking a leaf out of Tendulkar’s book, shall we award the Bharat Ratna to Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas? That would be a masterstroke, and we could balance that with a belated award to the Chisti saint.

The awards ranking

We learned about giving awards from the Brits, who have a finely graded system starting with the Order of the Garter. In these politically- correct, gender-sensitive times, it is not acceptable to ask why the Countess of Salisbury’s garter slipped when dancing with Edward III. Suffice it to say the king covered up by starting the order, later to be followed by the Order of the Bath, where no such folly could occur since presumably everyone was undressed for The Bath.

The gradation of British orders came down to the Star of India and that of the British Empire, only the heraldry marshals knowing the correct order of precedence in these lowly ranks. The British also instituted Rai Sahibs and Rao Sahibs, which could be picked up at the counter by paying a donation to the imperial exchequer. And that practice gives us a new idea.

Bring it in

We need to use the award to address pressing economic issues. With both the fiscal deficit and inflation figures rising dangerously, the finance ministry is threatening to chop into the government’s flagship programmes. But if they cut back MGNREGS, which has found so much employment for economists, and pull back funds from food security, what security is there that electoral hopes will be justified? More public borrowing can only skyrocket inflationary tendencies, so it is best we have a nationwide lottery to award winners the Bharat Ratna.

Which politician is brave enough to stand up and say that a voting Indian does not deserve a Bharat Ratna? This lottery would be better than all the others, for instead of money being paid out, money will just keep coming in. And as Edward III said: Honi soit que mal y pense (Shame on anyone who thinks evil of it)!

(The author has held several important positions in the corporate and development sectors.)

Published on November 19, 2013
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