Tennis star Leander Paes, former Army chief General (retd) Shankar Roy Chowdhury and industrialist Sanjeev Goenka were amongst those awarded Banga Bibhushan, the West Bengal government’s highest honour, Wednesday.
Bollywood director Shoojit Sircar, whose latest movie, Piku has hit the right chord with audiences, was honoured with Banga Bhushan, the second highest award.
At a function here, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee felicitated 20 stalwarts and institutions with Banga Bibhushan and 15 other with Banga Bhushan as Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi praised the state government for the initiative.
“These awards were conceived and instituted by the present government of West Bengal. I congratulate the Chief Minister for this appreciative and encouraging initiative. It is an example worth emulation by other states. Awards are not only recognition of a person’s talent and performance, but are inspiration for others in the society,” Tripathi said.
He said that many of the awardees had been felicitated elsewhere in the country and even abroad but it was “more joyful and special to be appreciated and acknowledged in one’s own state and by own people”.
In its fourth edition, the Banga Bibhushan Samman for the first time was conferred posthumously on Bangladeshi Nazrul Geeti singer Firoja Begum. Begum’s niece accepted the award.
Former footballer Syed Naeemuddin, singers and ‘rebel’ TMC leader Kabir Suman, Girija Devi and Abdul Rashid Khan and industrialist S B Ganguli were also felicitated.
“I remember, for about 20 years, the kind of songs Kabir Suman has sung. They have breathed a new life into ‘adhunik’ songs. We love his songs and their lyrics compelled us to think,” Mamata said.
Referring to industrialists Ganguly and Goenka, the CM said, “They probably had been able to love Bengal more than us”.
Taking a dig at the awards given by the central government, she said, “There are Padma Bibhushan and Padma Bhushan but we have seen that not all are able to make it from Bengal. So we thought why not we have our own sets of awards and take it to the world?”
In a first, the government also honoured four institutions, including Al Ameen Mission, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Ramakrishna Mission and Shri Venkatesh Films for their services to the society.
In the Banga Bhushan category, the recipients were instrumentalist Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, Bengali film actor and party MP Dev, body builder Tushar Shil, cricketers Manoj Tewari and Laxmiratan Shukla, chess player Surya Sekhar Ganguly, singer Kartik Das Baul and filmmaker Koushik Ganguly. Physicians Dr Tridib Banerjee, Dr Subrata Maitra, poet Subodh Sarkar, Manohar Aich and Ramapada Chowdhury were also awarded.