(CNS): We are told that there is a clamour for Sachin Tendulkar to be awarded the Bharat Ratna. The government has moved to change its rules so that sports can be included as a category to be considered for giving the highest award of the land. It can be said almost with certainty that the next category that would have to be included for eligibility for this award will be entertainment when there will be a bigger clamour for giving this award to Amitabh Bachchan. After all, Amitabh's fan following in the country and globally is greater than that of Sachin's.
Where is this 'clamour' coming from? We don't see it from the people. It is mainly from the corridors of power. When everything seems to be going wrong for the political class, they probably want to appear to be doing one thing correct. They know that there will be no opposition to this decision because for the common people it hardly matters whether Sachin is given this award or not.
But the greater question to ponder over is the state of affairs where we have to consider a sportsman for the highest award of the nation. Sports is a professional activity today and especially cricketers get paid very handsomely. Moreover, for somebody like Sachin huge revenues accrue from advertisements that he does. He has done what he has as part of his professional work more than as a service to nation. If he was playing voluntarily, that is without charging his fees and did not make money from commercial advertising, then maybe it could have been considered as playing for the country. In fact what he has done is to promote his own career. If he did not do well he would have been out of the team.
Sporting activity doesn't solve any real socio-economic problems of the country. It doesn't help anybody in any way. Players play it for making money. Viewers watch it for entertainment. And then there are others who are making money in the name of managing the affairs of Cricket. Managing Cricket has become such a lucrative business that leading politicians of the country want to become office bearers of the Boards – from the district to the world level. Like in other activities where politicians have vested interests Cricket has entered the domain where mega-scams are possible. Fixing is just one aspect of it. IPL took it to an entirely different level with the involvement of glamour and big money. It was the culmination of the process of commercialization (read vulgarisation) of Cricket. Like most of the other developments in liberalised economy it helped the rich class make more money for themselves.
The basic question is why has it become necessary to idolize an icon from an artificial world which has nothing to do with the socio-economic reality of this country or which doesn't impact the lives of common people of this country? It has not even brought peace between India and Pakistan as sometimes it has been used as a diplomatic vehicle by our leaders.
On the other hand there are people who have made sacrifices to improve the state of affairs of their society. There are countless such people in every part of the country. They may not be as popular as Sachin Tendulkar but their contribution to society has been of a taller order than Sachin's. The most important thing is with their limited resources they have made effort to change things so that their fellow citizens may live in a better world. Here we'll discuss just two examples.
Anna Hazare is a national icon today. And he has taken upon himself a mammoth task – to end corruption in this country. If he succeeds, even if partially, the life of common person will become less miserable in this country. Even if he doesn't succeed he would be given the credit for having challenged the corrupt ruling elite of this country and inspiring fellow citizens to join a national movement. Anna Hazare is fighting a real tough battle in a very hostile situation. The situation in the toughest of Cricket matches cannot even be compared to amount of courage required to undertake the task of attempting to change the corrupt political system. In a Cricket match even if you lose you end up making money.
The other person who has achieved exalted status in our society, although people don't know much about her, is Irom Chanu Sharmila. She can only be described as a super human. For more than ten years she has been fasting in Imphal demanding the repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. If AFSPA is lifted it'll bring relief to the citizens of entire Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. The determination demonstrated by Sharmila is unprecedented. Alone, she has gone on without bothering about the outcome of her efforts. The government is not paying any attention to her but that doesn't distract her from her goal or the method she has adopted to achieve it. Can the condition of Sachin playing with fever even be compared with Sharmila fasting for ten continuous years in a hospital ward under arrest and with a rubber tube inserted in her nose? It'll be an affront to people like Sharmila.
It is a pity that we have stopped respecting the real heroes and heroines of our society and have to look for people from sporting or glamour world as our icons. People in middle class would know more about some obscure bollywood actress than about Irom Sharmila. This also shows the degradation of values in our society. We feel comfortable with the artificial. If we worship the real heroes and heroines then we may be asked to make some sacrifice ourselves. In a consumerist world making sacrifice would be considered a foolish thing. But if we have to remain a humane society where human relationships are valued, which is essential for our existence, then the consumerist world will not help us achieve it. (CNS)
(Dr Sandeep Pandey is a visiting Professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Gandhinagar, and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for emergent leadership (2002). Dr Pandey writes for CNS (www.citizen-news.org) and leads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). He did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley in control theory (used in missile technology) and taught at IIT Kanpur before plunging full-time in social activism. He is also a member of national presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch. Email: [email protected])