New Delhi: All those fans who have been demanding that Sachin Tendulkar be awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, can now be happy as the government has made amendments to the eligibility criteria. (Also Read:Who all want Bharat Ratna for Sachin)
The Bharat Ratna can now be awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order "in any field of human endeavour". This means that sportspersons like Tendulkar are now eligible for the honour. Tendulkar was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian award, in 2008.
Earlier, the criteria for recipients, formulated in 1955, limited the award to "exceptional services in arts, literature and science, and in recognition of public services of the highest order." With the changes, it now covers almost all the fields.
The changes were brought about after Sports Minister Ajay Maken wrote to the Home Ministry, which supervises the process of finalising these civilian awards, in July. The government issued a notification on the amended criteria last month.
"This has paved the way for sportspersons to get Bharat Ratna," Mr Maken said today.
Asked who he thought were the frontrunners for the honour, Mr Maken said, "In my opinion, as far as individual names are concerned, two biggest names are wizard of hockey Dhyan Chand and run machine Sachin Tendulkar, they are the top contenders."
An elated Mr Maken had earlier tweeted: "Bharat Ratna for any sportsperson wld be a big big day for Indian Sports!"
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said that anybody who had "surpassed human endeavour or been a milestone" should be given this honour.
There have been 41 recipients of the Bharat Ratna, including two foreigners: Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the Afghan who fought for India's Independence in 1947, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. The last recipient was Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, in 2008.
Tendulkar, 38, holds the world record for most runs (15183 in Tests and 18,111 in one-dayers) and most centuries (51 in Tests and 48 in one-dayers).
He is currently in Australia and needs one more century to become the first batsman in history to score 100 international centuries.
Watch: Bharat Ratna for sportspeople too