The shortlist for this year’s Padma awards is ready and going by the names the UPA government has decided to play it safe and given controversy a very wide berth.
The world of Hindi literature has been acknowledged by adding distinguished satirical author-poet and actor Ashok Chakradhar. Rehanna Khatun, whose works are in Persian and is currently a professor of Persian at the Delhi University has been earmarked for a Padma Shri. Manorama Jaffa, consultant, Children’s Book Trust, who has authored over 70 books and over 600 stories for children also finds herself in this august company of fellow writers. Only one dancer makes the cut so far—Odissi dancer Geeta Mahalik, recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship has made it to the Padma Shri list. Painters fare slightly better, with Sunil Das and Paresh Maity being nominated for the Padma Shri.
The number of heavy hitters of IndiaInc are few on the shortlist. Som Mittal, President, NASSCOM is shortlisted for the Padma Shri. In his distinguished career, Mittal has worked for Larsen & Toubro, Escorts, SRF Limited, Wipro and Compaq and its successor HP as well as serving as the managing director of Compaq India and DIGITAL INDIA. Mittal transformed Digital GlobalSoft into a worldwide software services company. The 53-year-old Gautam Thapar, third generation businessman and founder of $4 billion Avantha Group, has made the Padma Bhushan shortlist. The managing director of Delhi based retail and accessory chain Fabindia’s William Bissell has been picked up for the Padma Shri.
The award list also is politically correct and salutes the achievements of India’s Dalits by intending to honour India’s first Dalit billionaire, Rajesh Saraiya, CEO of the UK based company SteelMont with the Padma Shri. It’s obvious that after the Sant Satwal fiasco, when the Padma Bhushan was awarded to hotelier Sant Chatwal inspite of him being once involved in a case of alleged bank fraud, the UPA doesn’t want a single blowback in the election year.
The American couple Lloyd Rudolph and Susanne Rudolph who taught South Asian Politics and Gandhian thoughts and practice for over three decades in US universities represents academia in the short list. Lloyd could get the Padma Bhushan while Susanne’s has been recommended for the Padma Vibhushan. The name of controversial Delhi University Vice Chancellor Professor Dinesh Singh has been proposed for the Padma Shri.
The Padma awards have a long history of saluting some of India’s greatest medical professionals. This year the names include Dr Ashok Rajgopal, the well-known knee replacement surgeon who has conducted over 23,000 surgeries. Dr Neelam Kler, Specialist in Neonatology at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital has been shortlisted for Padma Shri. Mumbai cardiologist Dr Lekha Pathak, ENT surgeon Dr Milind Kirtani and neurologist Dr Sunil Pradhan are also on the honours list. In the field of Science, former Director General of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) Raghunath Anant Mashelkar been shortlisted for Padma Vibhushan while Dr Ravi B. Grover, well-known nuclear scientist and former adviser, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), may get Padma Bhushan.
Oddly, the award list for sportsmen is strangely muted. Cricketer Anjum Chopra is nominated for Padma Shri. So is Love Raj Singh Dharmshaktu who has climbed Mount Everest five times. The shortlist would be further tweaked well before January 25 when the complete list of names is announced. A high-level committee comprising Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Pulok Chaterjee, Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami, besides others, shortlisted the names. The recommendations made by the committee are in the process of being submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee for approval. The awards are presented by the President in a ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.