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NEW DELHI: Repeating last year’s trend, the government has once again conferred the coveted Padma awards on a cross-section of “unsung” achievers who have contributed to diverse fields such as social welfare, arts, traditional medicine and healing, and even recycling of waste, all while keeping well away from the spotlight.
The few well-known names among the 85 Padma awardees this year — which include three Padma Vibhushan, nine Padma Bhushan and 73 Padma Shri — are music composer Ilaiyaraaja (Padma Vibhushan), Hindustani classical music exponent Ghulam Mustafa Khan (Padma Vibhushan), cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Bhojpuri singer Sharda Sinha, painter Laxman Pai, snooker player Pankaj Advani (all Padma Bhushan), actor Manoj Joshi and tennis player Somdev Devvarman (both Padma Shri).
The Padma awards list for this year seems to have kept out Lutyens hanger-ons and Bollywood stars, and honours doctors who have been working for social welfare. “This is a recognition for Bharat and not for the high profile set,” said a senior cabinet minister. None of the 85 awardees are from Delhi, which until a couple of years ago accounted for a significant share of Padma awards.
As many as 16 awardees are foreigners, PIOs or NRIs from countries including Russia (late Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin), Singapore (Tommy Koh for public affairs), Saudi Arabia (Nouf Marwaai, the first certified yoga instructor in Saudi Arabia and founder of Arab Yoga Foundation), Japan, Indonesia and the US.
Seven of the awardees have been honoured in the fields of spiritualism and yoga. P Parameswaran, a Hindutva thinker and senior RSS ideologue who has been instrumental in building the Sangh in Kerala, has been conferred the Padma Vibushan. The Padma Shri list features Rani and Abhay Bang, doctors who over the past 30 years have transformed healthcare in Naxal-infested Gadchiroli, Maharashtra; ‘Reptile Rom’ Romulus Whitaker, a wildlife conservationist and herpetologist working in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Tamil Nadu; Arvind Gupta, an IIT Kanpur alumnus who has been inspiring students to transform household trash into toys; and Lakshmikutty, a tribal from Kerala who has the recipe for 500 herbal medicines stored in her memory and has cured many snake and insect bites.
Also included are Bhajju Shyam, a night guard and electrician-turned traditional Gond tribal artist whose paintings have been exhibited across several European nations; Sudhanshu Biswas, a 99-year old freedom fighter who runs schools, orphanages and dispensaries in West Bengal; and M R Rajagopal from Kerala who offers palliative care to terminally-ill patients.