- Inspiring stories, Transparent Selection Process makes Padma Awards more inclusive
- It’s time to take inspiring stories of unsung heroes of India to the world; Institutionalize and endorse their work
Padma Awards are the second highest civilian awards conferred in three categories, namely Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shree. The awards are given in various disciplinary fields of activities such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, medicine, trade and industry, sports, and others to recognize the distinguished personalities who have either set high benchmarks & distinguished service in their respective fields or have contributed exceptionally towards the welfare of the society and nation.
For 2023, the President has proved the conferment of 106 Padma awards comprising of 6 Padma Vibhushan, 9 Padma Bhushan, and 91 Padma Shree. Out of the total awardees, 26 personalities who have been awarded the Padma awards are the real-time unsung heroes from different parts of the nation who have contributed big time in their respective fields and their lives have been truly inspiring stories for the younger generation.
Due to these sustained efforts of the current Union government, the process to confer Padma Awards has been democratized in the real sense and it has been ensured that the unsung achievers belonging to the far flung corners of India can also find a place in them.
Since 2014, Union Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a conscious decision to switch away from lobby-based grant of highest civilian awards to a nation-wide participative selection process. No longer are these awards given on mere recommendations of ministers or political influenced people which was a norm till 2014.
In the new policy, people working at the grass-root level have been chosen by the government as a result people like Vani Jairam, Kapil Kapoor, Bhiku Ramji Idate, Hirabai Lobi, Ramesh Patange, Laxman Singh, Swami Chinna Jeeyar, Mangala Kanti Roy and Ghulam Muhammad Zaz to receive the Padma Awards.
The representation of women in Padma awardees has increased after 2014 as out of the total Padma awardees 21% conferred to females in various categories in comparison to 19% female awardees during ten years of previous government. The highest number of women awardees getting Padma Awards was also during Modi Government in 2022, when 34 females were given awards.
Unknown faces and common man were found on the list of recipients of Padma Awards more often post 2014 as the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized on recognizing the efforts put in by unsung heroes from all around India to be selected as awardee. This can be ascertained from the fact that during 2004-2014, 162 unsung personalities were awarded while from 2014-2023 more than 188 unsung heroes have been given the honour which is 19% of the total number of awards given during last nine years.
Believing in the idea of ‘One India’ and taking all the sections of the society together through ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has truly made the Padma Awards more inclusive.
Inspiring stories of some unsung heroes who have been awarded with Padma Awards in 2023:
• Dr. Sankurathri Chandrashekhar, a 99-year old resident of Andhra Pradesh, has been conferred Padma Shree this year for being instrumental in the treatment of over 3 lakh eye patients with 90% surgeries conducted free of cost. He provided over 3500 children belonging to the weaker section of the society free education. He channelized a personal tragedy of losing his wife and two children in Air India Kanishka Bombing of 1985 into a lifelong Seva of the society.
• Munishwar Chanddawar, is a 1971 war veteran from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh who has been selflessly treating medically the poor and weaker section of the society for last five decades. He has been awarded with the Padma Shree this year.
• Tularam Upreti, known as 'Father of Organic Farming' and belonging to the state of Sikkim has been conferred Padma Shree, is a 98-year old farmer who not only practiced himself the self-sustained model of cultivation without the usage of fertilizers but also encouraged other farmers of the state to give up the chemical-based agricultural practices, and switch over to natural farming.
• Tulasi Gowda was awarded Padma Shree in 2021, who belongs to Halakki indigenous tribe in Karnataka. She never received a formal education, and at the age of 72 is known as the 'Encyclopedia of the Forest'. This is because of her vast knowledge of diverse species of plants and herbs. Since the age of 12, she has planted and nurtured thousands of trees and was recognised for her dedication to nature preservation.
• Cheruvayal Raman, a tribal rice farmer from Wayanad in Kerala, was awarded the Padma Shri Award in 2022 for his unique endeavour. Raman, popularly known as 'nellachan' in Kerala, is a living repository of indigenous knowledge and is also credited with preserving over 50 local varieties of rice.
• Jagdish Lal Ahuja, also popularly known as ‘Langar Baba’, is one of the rare philanthropist who used to feed free langar to people coming to PGI Chandigarh every day for two decades. Awarded with Padma Shri in 2020, Jagdish Lal Ahuja sold his properties to continue his philanthropy work which used to feed more than 2500 people two times in a day.
Suggestions to increase the outreach and impact of the Padma Awards:
• The inspiring stories of the unsung heroes who have been awarded with the 2nd Highest Civilian Awards needs to be taken forward to masses especially amongst the youth. So, Padma Awards should not be a mere ceremony, Government should produce documentaries, publish books on the remarkable achievements of such distinguished luminaries.
• Padma Awards are one of its kind Highest Civilian Awards conferred in the world which covers distinguished contributions made in the vast number of field such as Arts, Literature, Education, Medicines, Sports, Social Work, Science & Engineering. There are no awards in the world which celebrates and honors the geographical, community, gender and field diversity. Therefore it is time to enhance the outreach of Padma Awards and take it to global level.
• The exemplary work done by some of Padma Awardees can be taken as case studies by the Government Institutions and Corporate World. Contributions made by such people are only confined to their state or areas of their living, so therefore to enhance the scope of their work, welfare schemes and social service initiatives can be modelled around the distinguished work done by such unsung heroes which can be replicated by the Governments. CSR funds can be provided by the Corporates or PSUs to make their activities more sustainable and continue even after.
Satnam Singh Sandhu, Chancellor Chandigarh University, Chief Patron NID Foundation
Phone No. : ********
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