Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Hindi Academy Awards were presented to 27 writers and poets by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit at a function at Delhi Secretariat on Tuesday.

The awards function was held against the backdrop of the controversy surrounding the Academy's highest honour, Shalaka Samman, and the boycott of the event by a number of well-known litterateurs.

The awards had come under the spotlight following the controversy surrounding well-known writer Krishna Baldev Vaid whose name had been shortlisted by the working committee of the Academy for the 2008 award but was not announced due to certain objections raised on his writings. Thereafter the Academy had decided to honour Kedarnath Singh with the Shalaka Samman for the year 2009 but he had declined to accept it in protest. Despite being persuaded by Ms. Dikshit herself to accept the honour, he had not budged and stated that till the time the 2008 Shalaka Samman matter was resolved he would not cooperate with the Hindi Academy.

Apart from Mr. Singh, several other litterateurs such as Pankaj Singh, Vimal Kumar, Priyadarshak and Ashok Gupta had also refused to accept the Academy awards. It was due to such protests that the Academy did not make public its list of the awardees for this year's awards function.

In the end, however, 27 writers and poets were presented with the awards for the years 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 in the presence of eminent littérateur Jagannath Prasad Das, who was present as the chief guest, Language Minister Kiran Walia, Academy vice-chairperson Ashok Chakradhar and Hindi Academy secretary Ravindra Nath Srivastava “Parichay Das”.

The winners

The awardees included Gagan Gill, Asghar Wajahat, K.L. Nandan, cartoonist Irfan Khan, Suresh Salil, Dronveer Kohli, Kripa Shankar Singh, Aditya Awasthi, Sudhish Pachauri, Gyan Chaturvedi, Mujeeb Rizvi, Balendu Dadhich, Pawan Kumar Mathur and Suraj Pal Chauhan.

Speaking at the function, Ms. Dikshit said the prize amount for the 2008-09 award has been increased from Rs.20,000 to Rs.50,000. She also declared that the award amount for the year 2010-11 will also be revised.