Bengalis who deserve the Bharat Ratna

Bengalis who deserve the Bharat Ratna

November 28, 2013

Sachin Tendulkar and CNR Rao recently became the latest recipients of the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, given to an Indian for contribution towards the country in any field, ‘for the highest degrees of national service’, as the rule says.

The first Bharat Ratnas were given in the year 1954. In 1966, the rules were changed to enable the giving of the awards posthumously. The rules were again changed in 2011 to include the contributions in any field to be recognised for the award, and not just artistic, literary, scientific achievements, and public service. As a result, the achievements of Sachin Tendulkar could be considered for the 2013 award.

The recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister himself to the President. The Award does not carry any monetary grant. Only two non-Indians have been given the award, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Nelson Mandela.

Many people over the years have received the award. However, many of the deserving have not, for some reason or the other. Among the deserving are many Bengalis as well. Since posthumous awards can be given, if one can see it impartially, quite a few Bengalis are eligible for their contributions in their field.

Bharat Ratna medal

The Deserving Bengalis

Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore is one of the world’s greatest novelists.

The first on the list of deserving Bengalis for the Bharat Ratna should surely be of Rabindranath Tagore. The person who got the highest award in literature, and was also the first Asian to win a Nobel, deserves the highest award in India too. Tagore got the award from the English translation of the book of poems, Gitanjali, called Song Offerings. He was extremely influential in popularising Indian culture in the west. He was hailed by Nobel laureates such as the Irish poet WB Yeats and the French novelist Andre Gide. He was one of the world’s most versatile writers. He wrote poems, novels, plays as well as essays, which have been translated into numerous languages and are held in the highest esteem all over the world.

His contributions to world literature are immortal.

Rabindranath Tagore

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay

A novelist and story-writer of the early 20th century.

He was one of the most prolific writers from India. Like Tagore’s, his works can be found occupying the pride of place in the bookshelves of many Bengali homes. Sarat Chandra wrote in a simple language, novels which were full of profound thoughts. This simplicity of writing, yet about the most complex thoughts on life, is what makes him so popular even today. His stories launched a full-blooded attack on the evils of society, on the evils of the caste syetem, against women's oppression, and superstitions, in works such as Shrikant, Shesh Prashna, Charitraheen, Devdas, Pallisamaj, etc., evils that plague India even today. Romain Rolland recognised him as one of the best novelists of the world in 1925.

He can easily be described as one of the best litterateurs in modern India.

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

One of the greatest freedom fighters not only in India, but in the world.

Subhas Chandra Bose is too famous to write anything new. His attempt to free India from the clutches of the British colonial masters inspired thousands all over India to take up the struggle. His contribution to, as well as influence in, India has been immense. He was given the award posthumously but was withdrawn because of the mystery surrounding his death, whether he really died when it has been officially recorded. But whether he died in 1945 or not, he surely is not alive today, and a posthumous award can always be given.

Netaji’s not receiving the award speaks very poorly of how the awards are decided.

Subhas Chandra Bose

Satyendra Nath Bose

SN Bose was one India’s greatest scientists.

He is considered the world over as one of the people who never got the Nobel Prize, but who was one of the most deserving. Many got the award for works deriving from his contributions. The great scientist Einstein mentioned him in glowing terms, and wrote a collaborative paper with him which changed a lot in the way the behavior of subatomic matter was considered. Now, the Nobel was not given obviously because at that time it was more of an European award than a world award. But that was then. Surely his contributions deserve the Bharat Ratna. After all, how many Indian scientists have got world recognition?

If greats like CV Raman can get the Bharat Ratna, his great contemporary SN Bose also deserves it.

Satyendra Nath Bose

Jagadish Chandra Bose

His contribution to science has been seminal.

Though it was not recognised when he did those plant experiments more than hundred years back, Bose's place in history has now been re-evaluated. He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, made very significant contributions to plant science, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent. He is credited with the invention of the first wireless detection device and the discovery of millimetre length electromagnetic waves. He is considered a pioneer in biophysics.

Bose made a number of pioneering discoveries in plant physiology. He used the crescograph, which he invented, to measure plant response to various stimuli, and thereby scientifically proved parallelism between animal and plant tissues. He constructed automatic recorders capable of registering extremely slight movements. With one such device, Bose demonstrated the power of feeling in plants, exemplified by the quivering of injured plants. On September 14, 2012, Bose's experimental work in millimetre-band radio was recognised as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical and Computer Engineering, the first such recognition of a discovery in India.

With such contributions to science, the highest award in the country has a most deserving recipient in him.

Jagdish Chandra Bose

Prafulla Chandra Ray

An Indian chemist, educator and entrepreneur.

Among the greatest ever Bengali achievers, he is right there at the top. In 1902, his famous research work on Hindu chemists, A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Middle of Sixteenth Century, was published. It was a first-of-its-kind work on the contributions of ayurveds of india, like Susruta, Charaka, Chakrapani, etc. as well as other innovations, from a chemical standpoint.

In 1892, he established Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works that incredibly flourished under Ray’s management. It was one of the greatest contributions to the Swadeshi Movement, which began with the partition of Bengal by the British government in 1905. Ray represented many Indian universities at international seminars and congresses. Many of his articles on science got published in renowned journals of his time. Ray was a very passionate social reformer and social worker. He was a rationalist and was completely against the caste system and other irrational social systems.

The Royal Society of Chemistry honoured his life and work with the first ever Chemical Landmark Plaque outside Europe. Ray’s all-round contributions have been matched by few in India.

Prafulla Chandra Ray

Meghnad Saha

One of the brightest scientific minds in India in the 20th century.

As an astrophysicist, his best known work is the development of the Saha equation, used to describe chemical and physical conditions in stars. It made him internationally famous, one of the few Indian scientists to achieve that, and that too working from India. Saha was also a scientific visionary, helping to build scientific institutions like the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Calcutta, now known as Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics. He founded the journal Science and Culture and was the editor until his death. He was a leading light in several scientific societies, such as the National Academy of Science, the Indian Physical Society, Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. Saha wrote extensively on his vision of scientific economic planning for India.

As DS Kothari, one of Saha’s illustrious students wrote: “The life of Saha was in a sense an integral part of the growth of scientific research and progress in India and the effect of his views and personality would be felt for a long time to come in almost every aspect of scientific activity in the country.”

A contributor to the scientific growth of the country like Meghnad Saha deserves the highest accolade.

Meghnad Saha

Manna Dey

His contribution to the Indian cultural milieu is immense.

The singer, who left for the heavenly abode last month, was one of the most versatile singers in India. His classical background helped him create classics with his melodious voice. The creator and his creations would remain immortal to any lover of music in India. Whether Hindi or Bengali film songs, or songs in various other languages, his mellifluous voice had few parallels in the country. And the tributes have never stopped. He got the highest award in films, Dadasaheb Phalke award, a few years back.

With his immense contribution to the cultural landscape of modern India, Bharat Ratna is an honour he richly deserves.

Manna Dey

Kishore Kumar

A Bengali singer who deserves the highest award of the country for his contributions is Kishore Kumar.

Kishore Kumar was a genius of the highest order. Without any training, he sang songs with great aplomb, garnering accolades by the dozens and an undying fame. He was a singer, actor, lyricist, composer, producer, director, screenplay writer and scriptwriter. Such a versatile genius has rarely, if not never, been seen in Indian films. He sang in many languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Malayalam, Oriya, and Urdu. He won eight Filmfare Awards for best playback singer, and with these awards holds the record for winning the most Filmfare Awards in that category.

In terms of cultural contribution, Kishore Kumar’s is of the highest order.

Kishore Kumar

Sourav Ganguly

If any sportsperson from Bengal deserves the Bharat Ratna, it has to be Sourav Ganguly. 

He is regarded as one of India's most successful Test captains, winning 21 out of the 49 Test matches he captained. The left-handed Ganguly was a prolific one-day international (ODI) batsman, with over 11,000 ODI runs to his credit. He is the fifth highest run scorer in ODIs, and only the third to cross the 10,000 run landmark, after Sachin Tendulkar and Inzamam-ul-Haq. In 2002, the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack ranked him the sixth greatest ODI batsman of all time, next to Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Dean Jones and Michael Bevan.

The Indian team was ranked at eighth position as per ICC rankings before he became the captain and under his tenure the team rank went up to second position. An aggressive captain, Ganguly is credited with having nurtured the careers of many young players who played under him, and transforming the Indian team into an aggressive fighting unit. He captained India for five years, from 2000 to 2005. He led India into the 2003 World Cup final, the first since 1983.

Sourav Ganguly was one of the best sportspersons India has produced.

Sourav Ganguly

The Bharat Ratna is an award which has to be given to the most deserving. Over the years, that has not always been the case. There needs to be more transparency in giving the award.

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Comments (2)
PK Bhattacharyya Reply
February 23, 2014
One can not expect a better deal from the Indian Government. When Sachin Tendulkar gets precedence over Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, it's better we don not discuss this subject. I would call it a matter of shame.
May 26, 2014
With due respect to the award, Bose is bigger than the medal itself. You might be aware that Gandhi was never awarded with Bharat Ratna. People like Bose, Gandhi, Tagore, Bhagat Singh are so great that awards can be started with their name, which will be more more prestigious that the Bharat Ratna. Secondly Netaji was awarded with Bharat Ratna by Indian Government, with the sole intent of pacifying the demands of people to do proper justice to enquiry of Netaji's death conspiracy. Needless to say, that didn't go well with people and they had to take back the award.
Shayan Reply
November 28, 2013
It's sad to see how Bengalis have been deprived over the years, and some non-deserving people get it.
November 29, 2013
Such is our destiny... it's been going on for years!
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