BJP leader L.K. Advani, spiritual leader and philanthropist Aga Khan, actors Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal are among the nine named for India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan.
The awards, declared on the eve of Republic Day, are the first Padma honours announced by the Narendra Modi government which assumed office last May. It had last month conferred the nation’s highest honour – the Bharat Ratna – on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and educationist Madan Mohan Malaviya.
A home ministry release said that President Pranab Mukherjee has approved conferment of Padma awards to 104 people – nine for Padma Vibhushan, 20 for Padma Bhushan and 75 for Padma Shri.
Seventeen of the awardees are women. Four have been named for Padma awards posthumously.
Also among the Padma Vibhushan awardees is senior nuclear scientist M.R.Srinivasan, 84, who had negotiated on behalf of India with Russia for supply of reactors for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).
“I am happy to receive the award. It is the recognition for the people who worked with me,” said Srinivasan, who has nearly 60 years experience in the Indian nuclear field and seen the construction of most of the country’s atomic power plants. He has been conferred the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri earlier.
Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, journalists Swapan Dasgupta and Rajat Sharma, lawyer Harish Salve, filmmaker Jahnu Barua, former chief election commissioner N.Gopalaswami, wrestler-turned-coach Satpal, maths “Nobel Prize” winner Manjul Bhargava and Carnatic singer Sudha Raghunathan are among the 20 recipients of the Padma Bhushan.
Barua, who is one of the six from the northeast to figure in the awards, told IANS: “It makes me happy. I feel that such recognition is necessary. A lot of good work is being done and such recognition will do good to the region.”
Economist Bibek Debroy, badminton player P.V. Sindhu, space scientists S. Arunan – the project director for India’s Mars mission – and S.K. Shivkumar, director of the Indian Space Research Organisation Satellite Centre and having a key role in building the deep space network (DSN) that was used in tracking the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbite inter-planetary satellites, are among those named for Padma Shri.
“I feel deeply honoured. All in the family are also elated. It is the recognition for the team members,” Arunan told IANS.
The list of Padma awardees includes some spiritual leaders – Swami Rambhadracharya (Padma Vibhushan), Swami Satyamitranand Giri and Shivakumara Swami (both Padma Bhushan) and Prtugal-based Jagat Guru Amrta Suryananda Maha Raja (Padma Shri) were in the list. Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and yoga guru Ramdev had declined to receive the awards after their names appeared in the media.
The Padma Bhushan awardees also include former Lok Sabha secretary general and constitutional expert Subhash C. Kashyap. While Bhargava is settled in the US, four others in the list are foreign nationals.
Prominent among those who have been conferred Padama Shri include Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, music director Ravindra Jain, Gujarati writer Tarak Mehta and cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma or Pran (posthumously), T.V. Mohandas Pai (trade and industry), Mithali Raj (sports) and J.S. Rajput (literature and education).
Sindhu said said she was pleasantly surprised.
“It feels really good. I am really happy to get this award. This will further motivate me to do better and win more matches and tournaments. My family is also very happy. I really did not expect this honour and it comes as a very pleasant surprise,” Sindhu told IANS over the phone from Hyderabad.
Padma awards are given in various disciplines and fields of activity such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports and civil service.
Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; Padma Bhushan for distinguished service of high order and Padma Shri for distinguished service in any field.
These awards are conferred by the president at ceremonial functions held at Rashtrapati Bhawan usually around March/April every year.