Folk Singer Teejan Bai, Larsen and Toubro chairman Anil Kumar Naik, scientist S Nambi Narayanan, actor Manoj Bajpayee and 106-year-old environmentalist Saalumarada Thimmakka were among the 54 noted citizens conferred the Padma award by President Ram Nath Kovind here on Saturday.
Teejan Bai and Naik received the second highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan.
RSS leader Darshan Lal Jain who is trying to find the mythical river Saraswati, MDH founder CEO Mahashay Dharam Pal Gulati, medical professional Ashok Laxmanrao Kukade, Nambi Narayanan, mountaineer Bachendri Pal and former CAG V K Shunglu were among those awarded Padma Bhushan.
The ceremony in the imposing Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan saw the attendance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleagues Rajnath Singh, Harsh Vardhan, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Vijay Goel besides senior BJP leader L K Advani and senior government officials.
As many as 112 ‘inspiring’ personalities were selected for this year’s Padma awards and their names were announced on the eve of Republic Day this year.
The awards were conferred in two ceremonies with 47 dignitaries receiving the honour on March 11, while 54 were honoured on Saturday.
Besides Bajpayee who was conferred Padma Shri for his portrayal of unconventional and critically acclaimed roles, noted tabla player of Lucknow Gharana Swapan Chaudhuri, lawyer H S Phoolka who fought a long legal battle for 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims, scientist Sudam Laxman Kate considered a pioneer in sickle cell research, veteran archaeologist Muhammed K K and particle physicist Rohini Madhusudan Godbole also received the award.
Former editor of RSS mouthpiece ‘Panchjanya’ Devendra Swarup was conferred Padma Shri posthumously. A pracharak for 13 years, Swarup enjoyed close relations with four RSS Sarsanghachalak from M S Golwalkar to K S Sudarshan, according to an article published in Organiser after his death. His wife received the award.
Daitari Naik, 70-year old tribal from Keonjhar district in Odisha who single-handedly dug a 3 km-long canal with mere hoe and crowbar to bring water to his field in village Baitarani was conferred Padma Shri in ‘social work’ category.
Saalumarada Thimmakka who has planted thousands of trees over a period of 65 years, earning the sobriquet of ‘Vriksha Mathe’ for taking care of them as her children, was also conferred the coveted award.
Tsering Norboo, a surgeon based in Ladakh, who served for 50 years in remote and high altitude regions; Chinnapillai, a woman farmer who led microfinance in Tamil Nadu through her Kalanjiam movement; and Rajeshwar Acharya, a Hindustani singer were among the recipients of Padma Shri.
Footballer Sunil Chhetri, archer L Bombayla Devi, cricketer Gautam Gambhir, captain of Indian women’s basketball team Prashanti Singh were also conferred Padma Shri by the president.
Bhojpuri singer Heera Lal Yadav, plastic surgeon Ramaswami Venkataswami who works for acid attack victims, farmer Bharat Bhushan Tyagi who promotes organic farming, archaeologist Sharada Srinivasan, former IPS Jyotinivas Kumar Sinha, pisciculturist Sultan Singh, Sanskrit scholars Brijesh Kumar Shukla and Mohammad Hanif Khan Shastri also received Padma Shri.
Other notable recipients included nature photographer Anup Shah, tea seller Devarapalli Prakash Rao who provide free education to poor children, Director PGI Chandigarh Jagat Ram, tribal activist Kamala Pujari who preserves endangered seeds, farmer from Jhalawar Hukamchand Patidar, promoter of Chhattisgarhi tribal music Anup Ranjan Pandey, first transgender Bharatnatyam dancer Narthaki Nataraj, Bundeli folk writer Kailash Madbaiya, Kutchi rogan artist Abdul Gafur Khatri and papier mache artist Fayaz Ahmad Jan.
Dogri poet Narsingh Dev Jamwal, folk writer Joraversinh Danubhai Jadav, social worker Droupadi Ghimiray, Madhubani painter Godawari Dutta, Parsi Gujarati theatre artist Dinyar R Contractor, Telugu lyricist Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry Chembolu, organic farmer Kanwal Singh Chauhan, Sayyad Shabbir alias Chabbu Sayyad Budhan who cares for cows, German national Friederike Irina Bruning who takes care of sick cows, Uttarakhandi folk singer Pritam Bhartwan, epidemiologist Omesh Kumar Bharti and grass root innovator Uddhab Kumar Bharali were also conferred Padma Shri.
This year’s awardees were selected from across the nation and segments of society, with the government going beyond excellence and recognising larger impact and the awardees’ selfless service, an official said.
The nomination process for Padma awards was made online in 2016 and a simple, accessible and secure platform was put in place to encourage citizens at large to participate. Erstwhile ‘Government Awards’ transformed into ‘Peoples Awards’, another official said.
A record 50,000 nominations were received for the 2019 awards, over 20 times more than 2014, when there were just 2,200 nominations.