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Brajesh missed Padma award despite Manmohan government backing

Brajesh Mishra  

Vidya Subrahmaniam

RTI activist says others too missed it despite recommendations by PMO

New Delhi: India's first National Security Adviser and Principal Secretary to the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Brajesh Mishra, missed receiving a Padma award this year despite a recommendation by the Manmohan Singh-headed Prime Minister's Office.

Painter Jatin Das and dancer-scholar Padma Subrahmanyam also did not make it to the 2010 Padma list despite being recommended by the PMO. The Union Ministry of Culture too pitched in for Mr. Das. Young music sensation T.M. Krishna lost out to competitors despite a recommendation from the Ministry of Culture

These and many other interesting details relating to the Padma awards emerge from an analysis of documents obtained from the Ministry of Home by Right to Information activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. The Hindu has uploaded the complete list of names considered for the awards (along with who recommended them) on its website, beta.thehindu.com

Sant Singh Chatwal, the controversial hotelier who was awarded the Padma Bhushan, had the backing of Union Ministers Praful Patel and Vayalar Ravi, besides U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley and Dalis Adler, Staff Associate at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Of the 130 awardees this year, six were conferred the Padma Vibhushan, 43 were given the Padma Bhushan and another 81 got the Padma Shri.

The awards were decided by an Awards Committee comprising the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Secretary to the President, and the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, besides five eminent citizens — Kapila Vatsyayan, R. Chidambaram, Syeda Hameed, Tarun Das and Girsh Karnad. The committee made its selection from 1,163 names, which it received in two batches. The first lot of 1132 names reached the committee prior to November 20, 2009 — the officially-admitted deadline for receiving recommendations. It received another 31 names after November 20. The committee selected 107 names from the first list and 25 from the second list. Two recipients declined the award.

Of the 31 names in the second list, 12 came with the PMO's recommendation. Mr. Mishra and Ms. Subrahmayam were in the second list as were Editor of Newsweek International Fareed Zakaria, actor Aamir Khan, the former Cabinet Secretary and Member of Planning Commission, B.K. Chaturvedi, Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen and danseuse Mallika Sarabhai. Mr. Mishra and Ms. Subrahmanyam did not get the award, the rest did.

Also in the second list of 31 were actor Saif Ali Khan and Oscar winner Resul Pookutty, both recommended by the Awards Committee and honoured with the Padma Shri.

A 1996 high-level Padma award review committee headed by Vice-President K. R. Narayanan had prescribed strict norms for deciding the awards, including limiting the total number of awardees to a maximum of 60 and setting a deadline of October 1 for receiving recommendations.

Recent RTI queries have revealed that successive governments ignored the guidelines. In 2004, the PMO headed by Mr. Vajpayee made recommendations on telephone well after the deadline. However, in reply to a query, the Manmohan Singh government said the deadline stood altered to November 20, and further that the Prime Minister was not bound by the deadline.