Padma Awards 2023 awardees list: know eligibility, history and more interesting things

There are three levels of Padma Awards: Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. (Photo: Padma Award website)
On 25 January, the government announced one Padma Vibhushan award and 25 Padma Shri awards. Padma Vibhushan will be awarded to Dilip Mahalanabis for proposing ORS in the field of postmortem medicine (Pediatrics).

The Padma Awards are the highest private honor in India after the Bharat Ratna and seek to “recognize achievements in any field of activity or field involving elements of public service”.

History of the Padma Awards:

The two awards, Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan, were first established in 1954 as India’s highest civilian honors. The latter had three classes: Pahela Varg (1st class), Dusra Varg (2nd class) and Tisra Varg (3rd class). In 1955, these were named Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri respectively.

The Bharat Ratna is treated as an exceptional award with only 45 Bharat Ratnas awarded to date, whereas the Padma Awards are awarded annually to eligible civilians. With the exception of 1978, 1979, and interruptions between 1993 and 1997, the names of the winners of each year are announced on the eve of Republic Day.

In general, fewer than 120 awards are awarded per year, not including posthumous awards or awards given to NRIs and foreigners. These awards are not normally awarded posthumously, but governments may consider posthumous celebrations in exceptional circumstances.

The first Padma Vibhushan recipients in 1954 were scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, artist Nandalal Bose, educator and politician Zakir Hussain, social worker and politician Balasaheb Gangadhar Kher, diplomat and scholar V.K. Krishna Menon. The first non-Indian Padma Vibhushan recipient was King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk of Bhutan, who also received the award in 1954.

What the Padma Awards entail:

The award is usually awarded by the President of India at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Winners receive no cash reward, but receive a certificate signed by the President apart from a medallion that can be worn at public and government events. However, the award does not confer title and awardees must not use it as a prefix or suffix to their names.

A Padma awardee may receive a higher award (e.g. a Padma Shri awardee may receive a Padma Bhushan or Vibhushan) but only 5 years after the previous award was awarded.

Awards are awarded in specific select categories, including Arts, Social Work, Public Affairs, Science and Engineering, Trade and Industry, Medicine, Literature and Education, Civil Service and Sports. Awards are also given for spreading Indian culture, protecting human rights, and protecting wildlife.

Padma Awards Eligibility:

Anyone can receive this award regardless of race, occupation, title or gender. However, public officials, including PSU-related officials, excluding doctors and scientists, are not eligible for this award.

The award seeks to recognize outstanding work and is awarded for excellence and exceptional achievement or service in all areas of activity and field.

According to the Padma Awards selection criteria, awards are awarded for “extraordinary service” rather than “long service”. “It is not simply excellence in a specific field, but the criterion should be ‘excellence plus’.

Padma Awards selection process:

Any Indian citizen can nominate a potential recipient. You may nominate yourself. All nominations must be made online filling a form with details of the person or organization being nominated. An 800-word essay detailing the work the candidate has done must also be submitted for nomination.

The Government opens the Padma Awards Portal for nominations between May 1st and September 15th each year. It also writes letters of recommendation to various state governments, governors, union territories, central ministries and various departments.

According to the MHA, there are no strict criteria or trench formulas for selection. However, an individual’s lifetime achievement is one of the major considerations.

All nominations received for the Padma Prize are submitted to the Padma Prize Committee, which is constituted annually by the Prime Minister. The Padma Prize Committee is chaired by the Cabinet Minister and includes the Home Secretary, the Presidential Secretary, and four to six prominent figures as members. The Commission’s recommendation is submitted to the Prime Minister and the President of India for approval.

Sources told The Indian Express in 2022 that once the preliminary selection is complete, the services of the central authority will be used to check the former careers of the selected winners to ensure that no improper reports have been made about them or left on record. A final list is then prepared and announced.

Can I decline the Padma Awards?

We do not seek explicit consent from beneficiaries, but receive calls from the MHA prior to the announcement of the final list. If you do not want to accept the award, you can decline at that point and your name will be removed without noise. However, historically there have been a few instances of more disclosure denials.

For example, historian Romila Thapar twice, in 1992 and 2005, refused to accept Padma Bhushan, stating that she would accept the award only from “academic institutions or institutions related to my professional work”.

Former Prime Minister of Kerala and leader of the Indian communist movement E.M.S. Namboodripad rejected the award in 1992 on the grounds that it was against his nature to receive state honors.

Swami Ranganathananda declined the award in 2000 because it was awarded to him as an individual rather than his institution, the Ramakrishna Mission.

There are not a few cases in which awards have been ‘returned’. Recently, former Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, returned Padma Vibhushan in 2020.

Abolition of the Padma Award:

In extremely rare instances, the President of India may void/cancel someone’s Padma award in case of serious misconduct committed by the recipient. More recently, the issue was raised when medal winning wrestler and Padma Shri winner Sushil Kumar was involved in a murder.