Rule changed: PM picks Sachin over Dhyan Chand for Bharat Ratna
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Sachin Tendulkar became the first sportsperson and the youngest ever Indian to be awarded the country's highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, on Saturday.
The honour didn't 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".
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 Singh's decision was to go with Tendulkar.