The Kerala Assembly honours playback singer K. J. Yesudas on Wednesday. That Yesudas is meritorious to receive honours is unequivocal. However, the Assembly may be setting a bad precedent.
The danger here is that the practice of the House honouring eminent persons could become something like the universities awarding honorary degrees. Many an unworthy persons receive honorary degrees with universities having to bear various kinds of pressures. The Assembly too is sure to come under pressure for honouring persons under influences that may not always be honourable.
These days we see communal organisations competing each other for issue of commemorative stamps. There are not many complaints because the postal department is liberal in the issue of such stamps.
However, the Assembly cannot be liberal like that. Questions can still arise why the Assembly is honouring a popular singer and not the well known exponents of classical music or arts. Will the Assembly be honouring people from other fields such as literature?
It is true that the House has honoured past members and journalists on occasions like its jubilee. However, the connotation that the House was honouring someone was almost absent as it was considered part of the celebrations rather than connected with the business of the House. Besides, those honoured were someway associated with the functioning of the Assembly though journalists are technically strangers as far as proceedings of the House are concerned. Now, the occasion for the House deciding to honour Yesudas is that he is completing 50 years of his illustrious career as professional singer this year.
One should recall that there was even opposition to civilian awards. The Janata Government headed by Morarji Desai had discontinued the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri awards in the late seventies. Though it was restored three years later by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the choice of winners continued to attract criticism despite the government having a system and machinery to make the selections. How is the Assembly going to make better choices if it plans to honour more people?