Republic Day 2017: With 120 Padma awardees announced, govt makes gesture of political goodwill

In a rare gesture of political goodwill, the government on Wednesday announced Padma awards for leadership cutting across party lines — from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma to its own veterans, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sunderlal Patwa.    

A day ahead of the 68th Republic Day, the government brought smiles to many by announcing the names of 120 awardees from Padma Vibhushan to Padma Shri for 2017. Besides, political stalwarts, the list includes a cricketer, innovators, singers, social workers and bureaucrat.  

That the list is extensive and includes the likes of Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli shows that attention has been paid in order to include many for their exemplary contribution and selfless service to society.

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

While the BJP has been widely criticised for ‘ignoring its veterans’, its government has ensured it will honour another veteran leader and member of BJP’s ‘Margdarshak Mandal’ Joshi, similar to party patriarch LK Advani, upon whom the Padma Vibhushan was conferred in 2015.   

However a notable part this time has been inclusion of political veterans from across the party line and not restricting to ruling party.

And while the government on one hand has conferred the Padma Vibhushan posthumously on BJP veteran and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Patwa, on the other, it has also honoured former Lok Sabha speaker Sangma who died in 2016.

Recognising the political leadership of the NCP's Pawar, the Padma Vibhushan has been conferred on him. Both Sangma and Pawar originally belonged to the Congress, but were expelled from the party for raising red flags over Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue. Sangma, who had joined the NCP, later resigned in 2012 after opposition from Pawar over his presidential candidature. Backed by AIADMK and the BJD — and later supported by the BJP, he contested against President Pranab Mukherjee, but lost.

Pawar, who wore many hats including chairman of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Union minister and Maharshtra chief minister, continues to be NCP president and Member of Rajya Sabha, and is apparently close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.   

Padma awards had been a subject of controversy in the past with allegations of political favouritism, lobbying, partisan approach and geographical biases. There had been incidents when the credentials of a Padma awardee were questioned in the public domain. Aiming at bringing transparency, the present government had gone for online nominations this time around.

“More than 18,000 nominations for 4,000 nominees were received online and deserving candidates were chosen through a rigorous selection process. The criteria of selection was not just excellence, but ‘excellence plus’,” a source aware of the selection process said on condition of anonymity.    

This year the government has conferred Padma awards on more than 15 unsung heroes by recognising their contributions in various public fields.

If it’s Bipin Ganatra, popularly known as ‘Fireman’ from Kolkata, who has volunteered his services to the fire department for the last 40 years on one hand, on the other, it’s 76-year old Meenakshi Amma, a Kalayaripattu trainer from Kerala.

In an age when the medical profession has turned highly commercial, 91-year old Dr Bhakti Yadav from Indore has been honoured for selflessly treating her patients for free over the last seven decades. Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, who also happens to be the brother of senior Congress leader and former Union minister Kapil Sibal has been awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution to civil services.

There are many others — Madhubani painter Baoa Devi, Odia actor Sadhu Meher for his five decades of contribution to Indian cinema, noted singer KJ Yesudas, Genabhai Dargabhai Patel, who transformed drought-affected land into profitable pomegranate farms in the Banaskantha district in Gujarat. 


Updated Date: Jan 26, 2017 08:46 AM

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