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Whither Padma Awards?

Every year, on Republic day, the Govt of India announces names of select individuals from all walks of life who have been chosen for the coveted Padma Awards. In a few weeks time, Padma Awards for the year 2014 will be given away to 127 ‘distinguished’ individuals at a glittering function by His Excellency, the President of India.

Dr P Raghu Ram
Dr P Raghu Ram

A few weeks ago, persistent front-page headline news exposed gross irregularities, lack of transparency and political nepotism in selecting names for the 2014 Padma Awards by the Govt of Andhra Pradesh. The criteria laid down by the Govt of India – i.e. ‘exceptional and distinguished service of a high order’ and ‘service to society’ were blatantly flouted by the Govt of AP. Clearly, some names recommended for the Padma Awards from AP did not fulfil the above mentioned criteria.

The Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary led Screening Committee did not record the Minutes outlining reasons for selecting and rejecting nominations. Names were added and deleted by powers that be at the highest level suiting their whims and fancies. Moreover, names rejected by the Chief Secretary led Screening Committee were forwarded by the State Government to the Union Home Ministry, and that too, well past the deadline. A staggering 40% of recommendations from the Govt of AP for Padma Awards 2014 included doctors. Many of those who were selected for the Awards from Andhra Pradesh this year had their nominations forwarded through people and organisations from outside of AP. Needless to state, Andhra Pradesh got a ‘Padma snub’ this year.

Perceived ‘success’ achieved through making money by unethical means and political lobbying cannot and should not become criteria for selection. For someone to be considered for the highest civilian awards, all four aspects must be fulfilled — extraordinary merit, excellence achieved in the chosen field, demonstrable body of work and significant service to the community.

There must be a SEARCH COMMITTEE appointed early in the year to look for talented and meritorious individuals suitable for these Awards. The State Screening Committee must include people of eminence and impeccable track record from both within and outside the Government (lay public). In order to ensure absolute transparency, Minutes of the Screening Committee Meeting must clearly mention reasons for selecting and rejecting nominations. Credit must be given to merit and merit alone.

Every year, no doubt, many deserving people are indeed honoured with Padma Awards. Equally, a few highly undesirable names feature in the list. Hence, these awards are fast losing their relevance. In fact, I will not be surprised at all if a similar flawed process was followed in other States as well for selecting names for the most prestigious awards that this Country bestows.

Whether or not AP Chief Secretary led Committee did its duty this year is for their conscience to answer. Equally, whether or not it is a shame and loss of face for the Govt of Andhra Pradesh as a direct result of the glaring deviation in selecting names for 2014 Padma Awards is for the nation to ponder.

Trust that the lord will grant serenity, courage and wisdom to people in power and position to follow ethics, procedures and protocols to preserve the sanctity, prestige and honour that Padma Awards signify.

I shall end with an appropriate quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

Dr P Raghu Ram
CEO & Director
Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation, Hyderabad
Director & Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon
KIMS-USHALAKSHMI Centre for Breast Diseases, Hyderabad
Vice President (2013-14) & President (2015-16)
The Association of Breast Surgeons of India

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