The government announced one Padma awards on January 25. After the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Awards seek to “recognise achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved,” according to the Padma Awards website.
The Padma Awards’ History
The Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan awards were established in 1954 as India’s highest civilian honours. The latter was divided into three classes: Pahela Varg (first class), Dusra Varg (second class), and Tisra Varg (third class) (Third Class). These were renamed Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri in 1955, respectively.
While the Bharat Ratna is considered an exceptional award, with only 45 Bharat Ratnas awarded to date, the Padma Awards are given to deserving civilians on an annual basis. Except for 1978, 1979, and between 1993 and 1997, the names of the recipients are announced on Republic Day eve each year.
A typical year sees no more than 120 awards given, but this does not include posthumous awards or awards given to NRIs and foreigners. While the award is normally not given posthumously, the government may consider it in exceptional circumstances.
Scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, artist Nandalal Bose, educationist and politician Zakir Hussain, social worker and politician Balasaheb Gangadhar Kher, and diplomat and academic V.K. Krishna Menon were the first Padma Vibhushan awardees in 1954. Bhutanese king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk was the first non-Indian Padma Vibhushan awardee, receiving the award in 1954.
What are the Padma Awards?
The President of India typically presents the awards at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The awardees do not receive monetary compensation, but rather a certificate signed by the President, as well as a medallion to wear at public and government functions. The awards, however, are not a title conferment, and the recipients are not expected to use them as a prefix or suffix to their names.
While a Padma awardee can be given a higher award (for example, a Padma Shri awardee can be given a Padma Bhushan or Vibhushan), this can only happen after five years of the previous award being conferred.
Art, Social Work, Public Affairs, Science & Engineering, Trade & Industry, Medicine, Literature & Education, Civil Service, and Sports are among the categories recognised. Awards are also given for the promotion of Indian culture, the defence of human rights, and the preservation of wildlife, among other things.
Eligibility for Padma awards
These awards are open to all people, regardless of race, occupation, position, or gender. Except for doctors and scientists, government employees, including those working for PSUs, are not eligible for these awards.
Normally, the award is not given posthumously. However, in exceptional cases, the government may consider bestowing an award posthumously.
A higher category of Padma award can be conferred on a person only if at least five years have passed since the previous Padma award was conferred. However, in exceptional cases, the Awards Committee may grant a waiver.
The Padma Award selection process
Any Indian citizen may nominate a potential recipient. You can even nominate yourself. All nominations must be made online, using a form that includes information about the person or organisation being nominated. For the nomination to be considered, an 800-word essay detailing the potential awardee’s work must also be submitted.
Every year, between May 1 and September 15, the government opens the Padma awards portal for nominations. It also sends nominations to various state governments, governors, union territories, central ministries, and departments.
According to MHA, there are no rigid criteria or trenchant formulas for selection. However, one of the most important factors is an individual’s lifetime achievement.
All nominations for Padma awards are presented to the Padma Awards Committee, which is appointed by the Prime Minister each year. The Cabinet Secretary chairs the Padma Awards Committee, which also includes the Home Secretary, the Secretary to the President, and four to six eminent individuals. The committee’s recommendations are forwarded to the Prime Minister and President of India for approval.
Is it possible to refuse the Padma Awards?
While no explicit consent is sought from the awardee, they do receive a call from the MHA before the final list is announced. If they do not wish to accept the award, they may do so at that time, and their names will be removed quietly. However, there have been a few instances of more public refusals in the past.
For example, historian Romila Thapar refused the Padma Bhushan twice, once in 1992 and again in 2005, stating that she would only accept awards “from academic institutions or those associated with my professional work.”
Former Kerala Chief Minister and doyen of India’s communist movement E.M.S. Namboodripad declined the award in 1992, stating that accepting a state honour went against his nature.
Swami Ranganathananda declined the award in 2000 because it was given to him as an individual rather than to his institution, the Ramakrishna Mission.
There have also been a few cases where the award was “returned.” In the aftermath of the state’s raging farmers’ protests, former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal recently returned his Padma Vibhushan in 2020.
Can Padma Awards be annulled?
While it is extremely rare, the President of India has the authority to annul or cancel a Padma award if the recipient commits egregious misconduct. Sushil Kumar, a medal-winning wrestler and Padma Shri awardee, was recently implicated in a murder case.
List of Padma Awardees in 2023
- Shri Balkrishna Doshi (Posthumous) (Others – Architecture)
- Shri Zakir Hussain (Art)
- Shri S M Krishna (Public Affairs)
- Shri Dilip Mahalanabis (Posthumous) (Medicine)
- Shri Srinivas Varadhan (Science & Engineering)
- Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav (Posthumous) (Public Affairs)
- Shri S L Bhyrappa (Literature & Education)
- Shri Kumar Mangalam Birla (Trade & Industry)
- Shri Deepak Dhar (Science & Engineering)
- Ms. Vani Jairam (Art)
- Swami Chinna Jeeyar (Others – Spiritualism)
- Ms. Suman Kalyanpur (Art)
- Shri Kapil Kapoor (Literature & Education)
- Ms. Sudha Murty (Social Work)
- Shri Kamlesh D Patel (Others – Spiritualism)
And 91 Padma shri awards were conferred in different fields.