Bharat Ratna :: Why the nomination framework itself needs to change!!

Bharat Ratna (literally meaning Indian Jewel), as we know, is the highest civilian award given in India. However I am not really sure if the framework from which it is given reflects the importance that it has.

This week it was pretty evident on media and facebook when Bharat Ratna was awarded to Sachin Tendulkar and it started a series of fierce debates on whether he deserved the award, or whether there are other sportsperson like Dhyanchand (and numerous others) who should have been honored before him, or even whether politicians like Vajpayee should have been instead honored.

Although I donot agree on the debate of Sachin getting the award – In my opinion (and almost all of my friends, barring few) it was a no brainer giving Bharat Ratna to him, given his contribution to world of cricket. He is undoubtedly one of the best in his field and a role model and inspiration to billions across all states/languages/geographies of India. But I will stop on Sachin-o-rama here as I dont want this post to focus on Sachin but on Bharat Ratna in general.

In fact, this post was really triggered today when I saw US president Obama announcing 16 “Presedential Medal of Freedom“, which is highest civilian honor in US – and noticed the contrast between those two awards being given.

I noticed many things that totally surprised me as I was not aware about those, so I am putting those below alongwith how I think it should be changed (my main source of information is wiki for Bharat Ratna and US Presedential Medal of Freedom)

1. Who should nominate for the award?

Currently this is recommended by Prime Minister to President. I think this itself is the root of many problems. A ruling party (or prime minister) judgement would always be biased and will not reflect the real picture. For example, many in Congress party do not even acknowledge that Vajpayee is worthy of Bharat Ratna.

I think nomination process should be changed so that –

a) Certain number of awards should be voted by the member of parliaments.

b) A fixed number of awards should be nominated by President (this would included personalities who are not popular etc)

Also, this could be wrong both in India and US, because in both the countries it’s the ruling party that is making these decisions without consulting the parliament.

2. Which all area of fields should get the awards?

In India, it’s typically politicians who get these awards. This is pathetic, it’s like from a country of billion people we dont produce excellence in other fields and we only have excellence in politics.. this is so far from the truth and even funny to note that we have “excellence in politics”.

This whole situation gives the impression of “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours”, which is what politicians seem to be doing all these years along. This has got to change, and recently they modified it to include sportsperson etc but I think still lot is left to be done on this front including awarding those who were missed all these years.

USA has a striking contrast here as they award it in almost all area of fields and politics is a small part of that.

3. How many awards can be nominated per year?

Wiki says that maximum 3 persons per year can be nominated.

This again, I think is very less number for a country of billion people. I also heard a debate on TV that increasing the number of awards would dilute its importance, but I dont agree to it and I think increasing it to 5 or 10 (or even 20) will NOT dilute the importance of award.

Note the fact that we have other categories (Padmu Bhusan etc), but I still think there are too many indian personalities out there who deserve Bharat Ratna (and many more who deserve Padma Bhushan etc) and that will be only possible if this number is increased.

We can also notice USA here (a country of 300 million Рthat is one third of India) giving around 10-15 Medal of Honors every year!  Something to learn how should we honor our best.

4. Should the award be nominated every year?

Hell Yes!!

Since there are only 3 awards given every year so we would assume it’s awarded every year, right? So wrong!

It looks like many year there are no awards given, in the recent history no Bharat Ratna awarded in following years –

2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000

Only One award given in the year 2008

And Only two awards given in the years 2001, 2014

So, in Summary, in last 15 years, only 5 Bharat Ratnas have been given.

In contrast, in USA it looks like 120-150 “Medal of Honor” awards have been given in last 15 years. I could not find exact number.

4. Should foreign citizens be awarded?

Hell No!

There are global awards like Nobel Prize for global citizens. I am not sure what are we achieving giving Bharat Ratna to Nelson Mandela – no disrespect, I have great respect for him – but that does not mean handing over the highest Indian award to him!?

If absolutely necessary, perhaps we should have a new category called “Vishwa Ratna” (World Jewel) to honor those.

5. Special Case to mention – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

One last surprising fact I noticed on wiki is that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna in 1992 and then taken back (I guess by Supreme Court directive) as it cannot be proven if he is alive or dead. What!! I mean not giving an award is better than giving one and taking it back. But I dont have a solution for this as supreme court judgement cannot be overruled and trying to give the same award again to him will cause the same confusion again.

In Summary, there is definitely merit in the larger debate about Bharat Ratna and I just hope someone from Government read this post and bring about the changes :) … ¬†but that is not going to happen – so we are stuck with this system throughout our life and we should expect similar debates and controversies throughout our life, that is, as soon as it is awared to someone deserving (like Sachin), rather than honoring him will be dishonor to question him or her.

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Wealth Inequality in America, Perception vs Reality

Note to self – as I look through my blog, I notice I haven’t penned down a single post in last 2 years. I can take an excuse of my busy life in last 2 years, but I regret it too and have been thinking for quite some time to break the silence and return to blogosphere. So, this hopefully would be the first post in series of more to come in days/weeks ahead.

Anyways, this post was triggered as I watched a show on hulu of Larry King interviewing Former American Labor Secretary Robert Reich about Income Inequality in America.

Now, I have heard and read about “Top 1% of America” for last many years, but have not payed too much attention to that debate.

However as I watched the show further, this Robert guy really got my interest, so I googled (or rather YOUTUBed) him out, and watched few short videos on him.

There was one video which blew my brains off, and that really caused me to blog this, watch this below before reading any further –

As you can see on those eye popping graphics, the income inequality gap is not only real but it’s mind boggling. This also intrigued me further to google out what is the minimum wage at USA – and found it to be $7.25 per hour.

Now … few years back this number did not make any impression on me – in fact it meant nothing to me, as I did not know about cost of living at USA, in fact I did not know about cost of running a family at all as I did not have one (being a bachelor / dependent on parents)

But now having personally lived at USA for many years, I can imagine that a salary below 40-50k per annum in USA would mean a decent life but almost no saving. A salary around 30K per year would mean not a decent life, rather a struggling one where one would need to decide between house rent vs other needs of life .. and so I cannot imagine life of someone living on $7.25 per hour which calculates out to be less than 15K per annum. Ouch!

Now, on one hand I can certainly argue that back home at India – there are many people not even getting this much. A country like India is a real place to understand the issue of poverty and it will be scary to think about minimum wage there and on top of it the reality that much of the Indian population does not even get that. Note that Unemployment is another big issue both in USA and more so at India – but unemployment is not the focus of my this post, so I will take liberty of completely bypassing that in this post and just focus on the “working” people and if they are getting the wage they deserve.

What intrigued me here is not really the minimum wage or unemployment – but putting that in light of the income inequality … thinking that as a society we are letting a certain fraction of people go crazy rich while there are equally hard working people who are probably not getting the wage they deserve due to labor market demand and supply equation.

Here is the trailer for the documentary of Robert Reich, hopefully I will watch that too someday –

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Brand Loyalty vs Patriotism (in America vs in India)

Last year I saw an ad “Imported From Detroit” which has become my favourite since then.

Every now and then I find myself searching for it on youtube and just listen to it – love the style, the sense, the message.
However from the day I saw it – there is one question that keeps coming back to me too.
Should the (american) consumers avoid cars built by Honda, Nissan or Toyota – just because they are “foreign” cars? As far as I know most of these companies have factories in America – and even if they don’t, even if they are “purely imported” – shouldn’t consumers focus on what consumers should focus on – the usuals – quality, price etc.
The top rated comment on above video on youtube is —
“Buy American made” The three most powerful words of our time. Let’s do this people. GOD BLESS AMERICA. USA baby!
One of the reason I raise this question is because in India I see just the opposite.
Indians, on other hand, are embracing products from across the world with pleasure and without any sense of guilt. They love to wear clothing from international brands, they love going to “foreign restaurants” – McD, Pizza Hut, TGI Friday. They love to see new car launches everyday from companies across the world – and then go buy those cars in numbers ranging from hundreds to thousands. (which is why those companies are launching in India, to tap the so called “emerging economy”)
Bollywood is another example where I see this – apart from production houses and international crew – there are actors totally “foreign” who are being tried out and are successful and loved in India – whether it’s Barbara Mori in Kites, whether it’s Nargis Fakhri in upcoming Rockstar. They are brand among themselves.
I am not sure, maybe this has something to do with the fact that India was a closed economy for more than 40 years after Independence – so Indians know pretty much how it feels to have all “Made in India” products … they pretty much know how it feels not to have a choice.
There was a time in India too when “Made in India” products were being promoted – under leadership of Gandhiji, while India was struggling for freedom. Among other things it was probably identity crisis for Indians – but it is hard to believe that America is struggling with same kind of identity crisis right now?
This is kind of taboo question – I have many american friends on my list, so I didn’t really want to raise this question – but shouldn’t American embrace products from across the world with pleasure and without any sense of guilt … and shouldn’t get into a mindset which actually pushes them back on pages of history?
Brand Loyalty and Patriotism are two separate topics – wouldn’t it be better for the world if we keep them separate?

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Obama politics on Bush Tax Cuts?? (Hot Issue for 2012 Elections!!??)

For those of my friends who dont know about Bush Tax Cuts – read here.

Prez Obama fought his 2008 election with this promise that he will stop these taxes – especially for “Rich People”.
But now he is doing the opposite, he is extending those same taxes by TWO YEARS!!!
So yesterday when I read this news – I was wondering why Obama will extend Bush Tax Cuts if everyone is convinced not to – I guess even public polls show that 70% Americans are totally against further tax cuts for “rich”.
I saw this video with same sentiment of frustration and question-
BUT today Obama did a press conference to clarify and when I saw this video IT STARTED TO MAKE SENSE –
I think Obama is setting this up as a “HOT ISSUE” for 2012 elections.
After a dismal performance in 2010 mid elections – he might be a bit shaken.
In 2008 he fought mainly as anti-bush issues and “Hope for Change”.
But what issues will be there in 2012?
This might be the first issue he is setting up for 2012, and maybe more issues like this will come up next year – when he will “cave in”, just so that he can show how “bad” Republicans are and how “good” and “sensible” Democrats are.
Think about it!

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