|A file picture of eminent historian Romila Thapar.
Why did you decline the Padma Bhushan award?
My declining a State award is an entirely personal decision that I took 13 years ago when I was first given the same award and which I also declined at that time. I decided I would only accept academic and professional awards. And because it is a personal decision, let me emphasise that it does not reflect on others who have accepted the awards.
What are your reflections on State awards?
Firstly, one of the problems is that over the years there has been a degree of slippage where State awards are being seen as Government awards, in effect Government patronage.
The line dividing them may be thin, but has to be maintained. State awards should not be perceived by the public as Government patronage and this has something to do with how people are selected for awards.
Therefore, and this is my second point, the procedures for making these awards should be systematised and made more transparent. We should know who is consulted when names are considered, what the procedure is in taking a decision, and who decides.
If the names of the members of these committees are known, that would add to the prestige of the award. Those listed for awards should be consulted just prior to the finalisation of the list. This would save considerable embarrassment on both sides when awards are declined.
Thirdly, these awards are generally given to those who are already recognised. One would like to see a larger number of awards going to those who are doing valiant work in various fields and who remain unrecognised; those in rural education, healthcare, urban slums and areas essential to the well-being of our society as a whole. Awards going to such people would lend far greater weight in society to the work that they are doing.
Every time the Government changes there is an attempt to rewrite history text-books. The BJP did this when they were in power at the Centre. The present UPA Government did not lag behind either and reversed the decision taken by the BJP Government. What steps should be taken to stop such occurrences?
The most important thing, which I feel as a professional, is that institutions like NCERT, which is into writing text-books for schools, should be made autonomous. There should not be any Government control for such institutes.