Top Padma honours for Gen Rawat, Kalyan Singh
India’s first chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, Gita Press chairman Radheyshyam Khemka, and renowned vocalist Prabha Atre were on Tuesday awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian honour.
The government announced 128 Padma awards on the eve of Republic Day, including 17 Padma Bhushans and 107 Padma Shri honours. Thirty-four of the awardees were women.
Some of India’s top vaccine manufacturers featured in the list, including Serum Institute of India chairman Cyrus Poonawalla and Bharat Biotech founders Krishna Ella and Suchitra Ella. They were awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honour.
Alphabet Inc chief Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Tata Sons chairman Natarajan Chandrasekharan were conferred with the Padma Bhushan.
“No nation can excel without the contribution of selfless individuals working tirelessly to serve society. Congratulations to all those who have been conferred with the Padma Awards. PM (Narendra) Modi ji is committed to honouring our real heroes,” Union home minister Amit Shah said.
“It makes you very happy when the audience notices your thought process behind the songs and compositions. I am thankful for receiving such support and acceptance,” Atre said.
“It is a great privilege for me to be amongst a prestigious list of illustrious people who have contributed to the growth of our country,” said Poonawalla.
Actor Victor Banerjee, artist Rashid Khan, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee were also named for the honour, though the Left leader later said he declined the award.
“I do not know anything about the Padma Bhushan award. Nobody said anything to me about this. If I have been given the award then I refuse it,” Bhattacharjee said in a short statement.
Rawat was India’s longest serving four-star general who was killed in helicopter crash last month. He was headed to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington when his chopper crashed in Tamil Nadu on December 8. His wife Madhulika Rawat and 12 other personnel also died in the crash.
Former union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, who later became the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), was among 17 Padma Bhushan awardees. Others in the list were Punjabi folk singer Gurmeet Bawa, chef and food journalist Madhur Jaffrey, two-time Paralympics gold-medalist Devendra Jhajharia, India-born Mexican scientist Sanjaya Rajaram and Swami Sachidanand, known for his work in disaster relief.
Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra led the Padma Shri honours, which also included paralympic gold medallists Sumit Antil, Pramod Bhagat and Avani Lekhara.
Singer Sonu Nigam, author Najma Akhtar, Kathak duo Kamalini Asthana and Nalini Asthana; Garhwali folk singer Madhuri Barthwal, author Harmohinder Singh Bedi and Gandhian social worker Shakuntala Choudhary were among other awardees.
Others in the list included Chandraprakash Dwivedi, a national award winning director and actor best known for playing Chanakya, distinguished economist Shaibal Gupta, hockey player Vandana Kataria, senior bureaucrat Guruprasad Mohapatra, who carried out his assigned charge of ensuring oxygen availability during Covid even from his hospital bed before finally succumbing to the virus,
Narendra Prasad Mishra, a senior doctor known for treating victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy, Sheesh Ram, a 1971 war veteran, former Indian football team captain Brahmanand Sankhwalkar, Russian scholar Tatiana Lvovna Shaumyan and Punjab spiritual leader Baba Iqbal Singh were among the other names.
The Union home ministry said these awards were given in various disciplines or fields of activities such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, and civil service. Padma Vibhushan was awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; Padma Bhushan for distinguished service of high order and Padma Shri for distinguished service in any field.
The awards also stirred controversy late on Tuesday evening after Bhattacharjee declined the honour.
A senior home ministry official said a call was made to the residence of Bhattacharjee on Tuesday morning, which was picked by his wife, and she was informed about his Padma award. There is no provision of taking consent for giving Padma awards to anyone; the awardees are only informed after the decision has been made.
Bhattacharjee, who was the chief minister of Bengal from 2000 to 2011, is not well and largely confined to his home in Kolkata. His predecessor, Jyoti Basu, had also refused the Bharat Ratna in 2008.
“Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad not Ghulam,” said Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, in an apparent reference to Ghulam Nabi Azad.