The death of Ramakant Achrekar, who coached the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, left plenty of cricketers, fans and students of the game in sadness. Achrekar, who died in Mumbai on January 2, was honoured with the Dronacharya Award in 1990 for outstanding coaches in Sports and Games. He was honoured with one of the country's highest civilian award, the Padma Shri in 2010. In the same year, he was honoured the "Lifetime Achievement" award by the Sports Illustrated by Gary Kirsten. At his funeral, Tendulkar and other cricketers who were coached by him, including Vinod Kambli attended and paid their emotional respect. As his funeral marched on, there was a wonderful photo of school kids raising their cricket bat lined up on both sides of a maidan to pay their tributes.
However, hours after Achrekar’s death, Sanjay Raut, a Shiv Sena MP, raised an issue in his tweet as to why Achrekar was not accorded a state funeral. “Why wasn't Padmashree and Dronacharya awardee Ramakant Acharekar given state funeral and respect by the Maharshtra government ? . The Government has shown complete disregard towards Ramakant acharekar . Sachin Tendulkar should boycott government programs henceforth,” Raut tweeted. Following the tweet, there was criticism of the Devendra Fadnavis government. Maharashtra Minister Prakash Mehta said it was a “communication gap” while one official from General Administration Department (GAD) said there was no such prior intimation. One minister, who is supposed to handle the protocol, was out of town and was not informed.
The demand for a state funeral for Achrekar, a Padma Shri awardee who coached Sachin Tendulkar, the first sportsperson to be conferred the Bharat Ratna, is gaining momentum. How legitimate is the demand from the Shiv Sena to accord a state funeral to Achrekar?
The protocol for State Funerals is mentioned in detail in a website called factly.in, which gives out the details of who can be accorded a state funeral. It states that a state funeral will be accorded during the death of the President, Prime Minister, a former President or a Governor. It also mentioned that it is the prerogative of the government to order a state funeral for any other dignitary or individual.
In an RTI query, actress Sridevi, who died on February 24, 2018 due to accidental drowning was given a state funeral on the directions from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. A verbal order was issued by the Chief Minister's Office. The GAD said the power to grant state funeral for a person lies with the chief minister. According to an article in The Week in 2017, a change of rules have put the onus on state governments, who can decide who can be given a state funeral according to the stature of the person.
Thus, the rules are clear. It is NOT necessary that a person winning the Padma Shri SHOULD be accorded the state funeral. It is the discretion of the government, depending on stature and public sentiment, that a state funeral can be accorded. However, Devendra Fadnavis’ government is on the backfoot, for not according this honour to a Padma Shri awardee who in turn produced a Bharat Ratna.