November 17, 2013 4:05:21 pm
Sachin Tendulkar became the first sportsperson and the youngest ever Indian to be awarded the countrys highest civilian honour,Bharat Ratna,on Saturday.
The honour didnt just follow an amendment of rules but also a decision by the government to choose him over hockey great Dhyan Chand,whose name was recommended by the Sports Ministry and who was in contention till even the final few weeks leading up to the Wankhede Test match.
While the ministry also felt that the two sportsmen could get the award together,a decision was finally taken to pick Tendulkar alone,on grounds of his popular appeal,said sources.
Along with Tendulkar,the government announced the Bharat Ratna for eminent scientist and Chairman,Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister,Prof C N R Rao. The 79-year-old has been honoured for his well recognised international authority on solid state and materials chemistry.
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The problem with the rules had been realised a couple of years ago when there was a clamour the first time for Tendulkar to be given the award,with then sports minister Ajay Maken making a strong pitch for it.
As per the earlier rules,Bharat Ratna was awarded to a civilian in recognition of exceptional service in the advancement of art,literature and science,and in recognition of public service of the highest order. With Tendulkar in mind,the government initiated the process of changing the rules in 2011,and about six months ago,this paragraph was amended to state: It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour.
While this was a Tendulkar-specific
amendment,sources said,current Sports Minister Jitendra Singh suggested that Dhyan Chand should also be considered alongside the cricketer. This was a matter for serious discussion but eventually Singhs decision was to go with Tendulkar.
This is one award where there is no jury. The prime minister recommends a name and the president has to concur. In Tendulkars case,PM Manmohan Singhs recommendation letter was sent on Friday night and the approval came Saturday. Singh spoke to the batting maestro as well as Rao.
An official statement described Tendulkar as an outstanding cricketer and a living legend who has inspired millions across the globe.
He has been a true ambassador of India in the world of sports. His achievements in cricket are unparalleled,the records set by him unmatched,and the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by him exemplary, the statement said.
The last Bharat Ratna was awarded to classical singer Pt Bhimsen Joshi in 2009. Since the award was first instituted in 1954,43 personalities have now been given Bharat Ratna.
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