Friday, January 26, 2007

National Awards -- 2007

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:

Padma Vibhushan:
Balu Sankaran (Medicine)
E.C.G. Sudarshan (S&E) (USA)

Padma Bhushan:
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)

Padma Shri:
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?


  1. Narasimhan said...

    Dear Abi,

    Setting aside political and legal issues, it is also possible that there is nobody worth receiving the Bharat Ratna.

    With Regards

  2. Anonymous said...


    What about Baba Amte? Is there anyone worthier of the Bharat Ratna than him? Or are we going to wait till he passes on and then confer the award posthumously?


  3. Anonymous said...

    You list of Padman Shri is incomplete you have ommitted Astad Deboo...

  4. barbarindian said...

    I think they should catch a random Dalit and give him the Bharat Ratna. Since "merit does not matter" has become our national motto, this could be great way to spread the message across.

  5. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    Barbarindian -- I have seen your postings for a while, here and on dcubed. I strongly suspect you live in the US, and whether you do or not, you repeatedly express your admiration for the "American way". So I hope you realise that

    1. The US has reservation (or "affirmative action", a much nicer term) for blacks and other disadvantaged communities

    2. Dalits in India have been discriminated against far more horrifically, and for ten times longer, than blacks in the US

    3. If you made a statement such as the above in the US, replacing "dalits" with "blacks" ("let's catch a random black and give him the President's medal"), and it was traced to you, your employer would fire you immediately, no questions asked.

  6. Abi said...

    Narasimhan: Even with my limited knowledge, I can think of quite a few people who are worthy of a Bharat Ratna. Also, it's just an award, which implies that you pick the 'best' of the nominees. Should awards have minimum qualifications? If so, what should they be?

    Shiva: Baba Amte is an excellent choice. We also have some excellent musicians, dancers and literateurs. The award could have gone to any of them.

    Anon: I have compiled here only the awards for science, engineering and medicine. According to the press release, Deboo's award is for 'art'.

    Rahul: I admire you for pointing out the blatantly racist/casteist attitudes in one persistent commenter on my blog!

  7. Raj said...

    Very few people bother to go through the long list of awardees. The news hardly registers. But, the minute,someone turns down the award, he or she manages to get headlines and grab attention!Interesting.

  8. Pratik Ray said...

    Nice to see Baldev Raj's name on the list.

  9. Abi said...

    Raj: It's funny, isn't it, that we notice those that stand out in a crowd. Even a crowd as distinguished as the National Award winners ...

    Pratik: Yes, it's indeed nice that Dr. Baldev Raj is among the award winners.