Republic Day honours

Print edition : February 05, 2000
V. VENKATESAN

CIVILIAN awards bestowed by the government on eminent personalities on Republic Day every year are generally intended to renew public esteem on individual achievement, even though official recognition by itself sometimes lacks credibility. Recipients in the past have included persons whose contributions have been controversial if not dubious.

Writer R.K. Narayan,-N. RAM

There have been cases of recognition coming only after the individual received international acclaim. The belated move to confer the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, on Amartya Sen, after he had received the Bank of Sweden Prize awarded by the N obel Prize Commitee, spoke volumes for the government's keenness to recognise merit.

In this year's awards, announced on January 25, no one has been conferred the Bharat Ratna. By awarding the Padma Vibhushan, the nation's second highest civilian award, to eminent writer R.K. Narayan (who fully deserved the Bharat Ratna in view of his in ternationally acclaimed literary accomplishments) along with 14 others, the government seems to have honoured the award itself. Narayan, who received the Padma Bhushan as early as 1964, received the Padma Vibhushan in the category of literature and educa tion.

ISRO Chairman Dr. K. Kasturirangan-S. THANTHONI

Other Padma Vibhushan awardees include Chief Election Commissioner Dr.M.S. Gill (civil service); former Punjab Governor B.D. Pande (civil service); economists Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati and Prof. K.N. Raj (both for literature and education); Pandit Jasraj (a rt - classical music - vocal); Hariprasad Chaurasia and Ustad Vilayat Khan (both for art - classical music - instrumental); Odissi exponent Kelucharan Mohapatra (art - classical dance); Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman Dr.K. Kasturirang an (science and engineering - space technology); former Reserve Bank of India Governor M. Narasimham (trade and economic activity); former bureaucrats Tarlok Singh and Krishen Behari Lall (both for civil service).

Former Union Minister Sikander Bakht, the prominent Muslim leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was not given a berth in the Vajpayee Ministry after the last general elections, has received the Padma Vibhushan in the public affairs category. B akht had openly criticised his exclusion from the Ministry and this is clearly an instance of a national civilian award being used to appease partisan and sectional interests, and to balance the various pulls and pressures within the BJP.

Swami Ranganathananda of the Ramakrishna Mission has declined the Padma Vibhushan as it was conferred on him in his individual capacity. He had accepted the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1987 and the Gandhi Peace Prize in February last year as both were conferred on the Mission.

Chief Election Commissioner Dr. M.S. Gill-K. RAMESH BABU

Among the 21 recipients of Padma Bhushan were Tamil superstar Rajnikant (art - cinema), Director of Centre for Science and Environment and environmental activist Anil Agarwal (miscellaneous), industrialist Ratan Tata, former Information Adviser to Indira Gandhi, H.Y. Sharada Prasad, scientist Prof. P.V. Indiresan and Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. Archaeologist B.B. Lal, who had backed the Sangh Parivar's view on the Babri Masjid's archaeology during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, was also hono ured with a Padma Bhushan.

Cardiologists Mathew Samuel Kalarickal and I. Sathyamurthy, music director A.R. Rahman, film director Shekhar Kapur, vocalist Shubha Mudgal, film actress and dancer Hema Malini, film producer and director Ramanand Sagar of Ramayana fame, painter Anjolie Ela Menon figure among the 43 Padma Shri awardees.

Cardiologist Mathew Samuel Kalarickal.-M. MOORTHY

Although the awards are meant to honour persons who have excelled in various walks of life, the powers that be have found it difficult to resist the temptation of honouring persons close to their school of thought. The Vajpayee Government has tried to st rike a balance between the compulsions of distributing such honours to persons close to the Sangh Parivar and honouring non-partisan eminent personalities.

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