External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, cricket hero Sachin Tendulkar, veteran singer Asha Bhonsle besides corporate captains Ratan Tata, LN Mittal and NR Narayana Murthy were among those named Friday for India's second highest civilian awards ahead of the country's Republic Day.
The other recipients of Padma Vibhushan include Everest hero Edmund Hillary, who has been honoured posthumously, world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand, former chief justice AS Anand and former civil servant PN Dhar, who was principal secretary to late prime minister Indira Gandhi.
The list of 119 Padma awardees represent the best in their spheres, including public life, arts, science and business. But, unlike previous years, there appeared to be more from the trade and industry and the arts, and less of people from politics and public affairs.
As expected no Bharat Ratna was awarded this year, perhaps because of the political controversy surrounding it. The last recipients of the Bharat Ratna were Ustad Bismillah Khan and playback singer Lata Mangeshkar in 2001.
As many as 35 people were named for the Padma Bhushan that included commentator, Jasdev Singh, author, Dominique Lapierre, former home secretary K Padmanabhiah, sociologist TK Oommen, London-based economist Lord Meghnad Desai and Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams.
Corporate India was big in the Padma awards this year as were literary personalities. Apart from Tata, Mittal and Infosys chief Narayana Murthy, hotelier PRS Oberoi was also honoured with the Padma Vibhushan.
ICICI managing director, KV Kamath, software entrepreneur, Shiv Nadar and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit were chosen for this year's Padma Bhushan indicating the increasing recognition of contribution of achievements in the business and economy sector that has given the country global recognition.
Unlike last year when the announcement of the awards was inordinately delayed, the list came well in time this year.
Five foreigners figured in the list of Padma awardees this year including Prof Ji Xianlin from China, Yuli Mikhailovitch Vorontsov (posthumous), former Russian ambassador to India who became the country's foreign minister. They were honoured with the Padma Bhushan. Russian artist Gennadi Mikhailovich Pechinkov and Canadian biochemist Joseph H Hulse were named for the Padma Shri. Hillary, a native of New Zealand, was awarded posthumously.
News television's star anchors Barkha Dutt and Vinod Dua of NDTV and Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN were named for Padma Shri awards. Prof Amitabh Mattoo, vice-chancellor of Jammu University, was also named for the award.
Literary personalities also constituted a huge chunk of the awardees. Prominent among those included Prof Kaushik Basu, Padma Desai (Padma Bhushan) and Sukhadeo Thorat, Surjya Kanta Hazarika (Padma Shri).
Thirty-five people have been named for Padma Bhushan while 71 for Padma Shri.
Indo-Asian News Service