Actually what is the criteria for these awards? Being famous and earning enough through brand endorsements to last you a lifetime? Being in the news for any reason, just because you are a celebrity and breaking-news hungry media will fall head over heals to give you a coverage to keep it's news scrawlers rolling? Or simply because the real Indians who make the difference in the lives of many and deserve to be honoured, don't do a good job in increasing the TRP or readership counts?
NDTV's nominees of 'Indian of the Year 2006' include Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Aamir Khan, Sanjay Dutt (named as Munnabhai, perhaps they found it a little inconvenient to find their winner behind the bars under Arms Act!), Sania Mirza apart from Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, two other regular fixtures of the list since UPA came to power. I actually wrote them a mail saying them whether they really mean to honour the people and are true to these awards or this is just another gimmick to grab eyeballs by showing an 'Exclusive' with the high profile celebrity. To their credit they had named Kiran Desai (Winner, ManBooker Prize 2006), Arvind Kejrival (Magasasay Award winner and ardent supporter of Right to Information), C.L. Mattu (father of Priyadarshini Mattoo, for fighting for justice in her daughter's case) and Late Major Manish Pitambre (sacrificed his life fighting terrorists in J&K). But honestly I really don't believe any of these people will win. I don't have any doubts on sensibilities of Indian people but the fact is that we often vote for our idols rather the deserving winners. And hence are these awards not reduced to nothing more than popularity contests?
And risking your raised brows, is it somehow related to these celebs' fattenning paypacket from their modelling careers? Isn't a 14 point headline on frontpage (or a half-hour-special on primetime) announcing Amitabh Bachchan as 'Indian of the Year', a very good idea for PR? A win-win for both winner and the channel?
The Week and Outlook give their awards to a truly deserving person whose name you won't have heard ever before but that person would have made difference for his society and community. These awards are not based on reader's polls but decided by the editorial staff. Many others are also heroes from all the walks of life are also featured in these pages.
So I return to my original question, why are the celebrities nominated for such headline-creating-honours irrespective of their not so creditable achievements?
My Indian of the Year? Prof. R.P. Singh (VC, Lucknow University) for taking a step forward in the direction of cleansing higher education in UP. I wish him good luck and all success in 2007.