Happy Republic Day!
The National Awards were announced earlier today. Those for science, engineering and medicine are arguably the least politicized. Let's take a look:
Balu Sankaran (Medicine)
E.C.G. Sudarshan (S&E) (USA)
Gurcharan Singh Kalkat (Science)
Manju Sharma (S&E)
Prithipal Singh Maini (Medicine)
Saroj Ghose (S&E)
Shiv Kumar Sarin (Medicine)
Vaidya Shriram Sharma (Medicine)
Hakim Syed Mohammad Sharfuddin Quadri (Medicine)
Vilayanur Ramachandaran (S&E) (USA)
Ananda M Chakrabarty (S&E)
Anoop Misra (Medicine)
Ashok Kumar Hemal (Medicine)
Atul Kumar (Medicine)
B Paul Thaliath (Medicine)
Balbir Singh (Medicine)
Baldev Raj (S&E)
Dilip K Biswas (S&E)
Harpinder Singh Chawla (Medicine)
K R Palaniswamy (Medicine)
Kharak Singh Valdiya (Engineering)
Kiran Karnik (S&E)
Mahipal S Sachdev (Medicine)
Manjunath Cholenahally Nanjappa (Medicine)
Mayilvahanan Natarajan (Medicine)
Mohsin Wali (Medicine)
Narmada Prasad Gupta (Medicine)
Perumalsamy Namperumalsamy (Medicine)
Ravi Narayan Bastia (S&E)
Sheo Bhagwan Tibrewal (Medicine)
Sudhir Kumar Sopory (S&E)
Thanu Padmanabhan (S&E)
T Kochandy Alex (S&E)
Well, there you have it: 2 Padma Vibhushans, 8 Padma Bhushans and 23 Padma Shris. Last year, these numbers were 4, 6 and 17, respectively.
Among the others, I could recognize a few academics: Jeffrey Sachs, T. N. Srinivasan, Mushirul Hassan, Bakul Dholakia. I found the award to Tarla Dalal (for cookery) a little odd.
* * *
There are several things that point to a continuing decline in the prestige associated with these awards [a welcome trend, if you ask me!]. First, under normal circumstances, the award announcement should have been out last night, well in time for the morning newspapers on the Republic Day. Something silly seems to have happened yesterday, so our newspapers had only sketchy information this morning. Evidently, getting all the approvals done on time was not a priority.
Second, the government of a nation of over a billion people could not find anyone who is worthy of its highest civilian honour: the Bharat Ratna. Can you believe that this is the third non-Bharat-Ratna year in a row? I wonder what the government's trying to signal here [incompetence? indifference? stupidity?].
And, finally, within a day after the announcement, at least one recepient has already turned down his Padma Shri award, calling it "unconstitutional". Again, someone has failed to do his/her home work.
Oh, well. Awards aren't complete without such interesting twists, are they?