Ever since the news began making rounds that the ruling NDA government at the centre has decided to recommend the names of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dhyan Chand for the decoration of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour in India, many opinions in various forms started wavering around.
While some people opine that Bharat Ratna has become a watered down decoration and it makes no meaning to confer the same upon the great freedom fighter like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, few others opine that it is too late to consider Netaji for such an honour. In fact, in 1992 only, the then union government decided to confer the award posthumously on Subhash Chandra Bose, but met with a controversy. Due to the debate surrounding Netaji’s death, the posthumous mention of Bose was much criticised, and also his family refused to accept the award. Following a 1997 Supreme Court decision, it was promulgated that Bose’s award was cancelled. In Indian history, it is the only time when the award was announced but hasn’t conferred.
Even this time, with the tittle-tattle around Bharat Ratna to be conferred on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a majority of his family members censured of the idea and decided not to accept it. Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose said, “Netaji has been missing since 1945. When you award him with Bharat Ratna posthumously, you have to say when he died, but where is the evidence? The best way to honour him is to declassify government files which can reveal the truth behind his disappearance”.
Bharat Ratna which literally means the Jewel of India is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. It was instituted on January 2, 1954 with the very aim of conferring it in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order, without any sort of distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the government expanded the criteria to include any field of human endeavour with a December 2011 amendment. Bharat Ratna recipients rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence, but are constitutionally prohibited from using the award name as a title.
Eminent people from all walks of life personally feel that the value of Bharat Ratna has ebbed over a period of time; and also opine that it’s just the political influence that fetches the highest honour and not the mere services or performance as aimed while instituting the award.
From the other side, Param Vir Chakra (PVC) which literally means Wheel of the Ultimate Brave is India’s highest military honour conferred for the highest degree of courage or altruism in the presence of the enemy. It can be – and often has been, awarded posthumously. It is equivalent to the Medal of Honor in the United States, and the Victoria Cross in the United Kingdom.
The PVC was instituted on 26 January 1950, the Republic day of India, by the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad, with effect from August 15, 1947, the Independence Day of India. The PVC can be awarded to personnel of all ranks from all branches of the Indian military. Like other military honours, even PVC can be awarded a second time. Nevertheless, there has not even been a single case of such kind, so far.
The Ashoka Chakra is the peacetime equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra, and is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent valour or altruism other than in the face of the enemy. The decoration may be awarded either for military or civilian personnel and may be awarded posthumously.
Though Param Vir Chakra was instituted prior to the institution of Bharat Ratna, the number of awardees of PVC is far less than those conferred with the Bharat Ratna. The standards considered for awarding PVC is evident from the fact that in 86 years history of Indian Air Force (come into force w.e.f Oct 08, 1932), Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, stands to be the only person who was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously in 1971.
While so much denigration is attached currently to Bharat Ratna, there is a definite need to reinstate the significance of the honour as desired by the entire nation with the true purpose of instituting the award in the backdrop of the very purpose of instituting the award.