Padma awards : mired in controversies

  • Awards or rewards?
  • Many who get don’t deserve,
  • All who deserve don’t get

(Dasu Kesava Rao)

The names of winners of the ‘prestigious’ Padma awards will soon be out. Will Saina Nehwal get it? Which silver screen idol will be decorated this time? These questions engaging the minds of common man or woman will be answered.

dasu kesava rao

Dasu Kesava Rao

The ace shuttler feels she richly deserves the promotion – Padmasri to next level – for her significant contribution to sports and is therefore aggrieved that the powers that be have not recognised it. She tweeted her hurt feelings. Presumably realising that she had overstepped the limit, she clarified she is nobody to demand or press for the award.

Regardless of whether Saina gets the award, one thing is for sure – the country’s top civilian awards have clearly lost their lustre. In fact, over the years, they have tended to become rewards than awards. Instances are not wanting where a choice is governed either by loyalty or lobbying, proximity to politicians or political compulsions etc. There are some who reject the award and insist they deserve something bigger. Singer S. Janaki, for instance. The Government is sometimes caught in a curious situation in choosing between two claimants of equal stature, fame and achievements. Often the way-out is BOTH. Example: Padmasri for N.T. Rama Rao and A. Nageswara Rao in the same year. Ilaiyaraaja and A.R. Rahman were awarded Padma Bhushan together in recent years.

Information available from the Right to Information Act point to blatant evidence of favouritism and opportunism. NRI lobbyist Sant Singh Chatwal got Padmabhushan for helping friend Manmohan Singh wrap up the Indo-American nuclear agreement. Ironically Brijesh Mishra, a Vajapayee aide, was rewarded for supporting the same nuclear deal. Some Congress leaders are said to recommend no fewer than 25 names. Lata Mangeshkar has reportedly recommended sibling Usha and Ustad Amjad Khan his two sons for the awards.

Norms governing the award prohibit the recipient from using it for self-promotion. This is quite often honoured more in breach than in observance, particularly in the south where film personalities lose no time in prefixing the Padma to the name, as if they were so christened at birth. Other favourite suffixes are titles liberally conferred by the fans or cultural organisations or honorary doctorates given by Universities. That is why we see them referred to royally as ‘Viswavikhyatha Natasarvabhowma Padmasri Dr’, ‘Nata Samrat Dr’, ‘Nadigar Thilagam’, ‘Agra Nati’, ‘Sahaja Nati’ or ‘Hasya Brahma’. A prominent lyricist’s name is never mentioned in the press without the prestigious literary award he had won years ago.

Actor Mohan Babu and comedian Brahmanandam were indicted by the High Court for prefixing Padmasri to their name in the titles for the film, Denikaina Ready. Some see this as a legacy of the colonial past when the powerful and the influential flaunted their appendages like Raja Bahadur or Dewan Bahadur.

Coming back to Saina Nehwal’s claims, some feel she can wait and some others that her achievements have been reasonably recognised in the form of Padmasri, Arjuna, Rajiv Khel Ratna awards, not to mention the windfall from endorsements or liberal grants from State Governments. Any way, all the best, Saina.

Government also needs to look beyond those who formally advance their claims and decorate the forgotten heroes who in their evening of life are in penury or poor health. Like our ball badminton wizard Jammalamadugu Pitchayya.

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