Syed Junaid Hashmi: If the manner in which recommendations for Padma Shri and other Padma Awards have been dealt with are any indication, affiliation with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) seems to have prevailed over eligibility, qualification and talent.
The Padma award committee for 2017 which was headed by Cabinet Secretary and included Home Secretary, Secretary to the President, Additional Principal Secretary to PM, Waheeda Rehman, Dr. Harivansh, S.Gurumurthy, Pullela Gopichand, Dr. Hari Gautam and Dr. A.Surya Prakash seems to have taken no note of even the recommendations of Governor, Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Minister in the PMO and another Union Cabinet minister from Jammu and Kashmir.
FinMin Dr Haseeb A Drabu
The recommendations made by the awards committee are submitted to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the President for their approval. It is after this approval that names of the awardees are made public. The two reserve the right to approve the recommended names or add some more to the list forwarded to it by the award committee. However, in the case of J&K, the personalities who managed recommendations from the constitutional head of the state were left dumbstruck when the list was made public.
They couldn’t believe that central government has rejected the recommendations of the Governor N.N.Vohra. According to the documents available with Kashmir Life, Governor N.N.Vohra had recommended names of Dr. Darakshan Andrabi, Jatinder Udhampuri and Bhajan Sopori. MHA forwarded their names to the awards committee but when the list was sent to the Prime Minister and later to the President Pranab Mukherjee’s office, all the three nominees of the Governor were missing from the final list of the Padma awardees.
Dr. Darakshan Andrabi’s name had also been recommended by BJP Leader and Rajya Sabha MP Shamsher Singh Manhas. Andrabi is a BJP leader and Vice-President of the state unit. Jatindra Udhampuri is a prolific writer of Dogri, Hindi and Urdu literature. He is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1981n and has already been awarded with Padma Shri. Bhajan Sopori is an instrumentalist who plays Santoor, an ancient stringed musical instrument.
Not only Governor N.N.Vohra, Lok Sabha MP and Minister in the PMO Dr. Jatindra Singh had recommended names of Dr. Sangeeta Gupta and Dr. Shakti Gupta for the prestigious Padma Shri award but both failed to find favour with the awards committee. Despite being in PMO, Dr. Jatindra Singh failed to get his recommendations respected by the awards committee. Both the doctors were surprised at their exclusion from the list of the Padma awardees.
After Dr. Jatindra, another powerful figure from the state government Dr. Haseed Drabu, the finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had also recommended name of Dr. Sangeeta Gupta for the Padma Shri award but even he was not heard. Dr. Vinod Raina had managed recommendation from Minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi but even that did not help the nominee to come in the consideration zone of the central government. Arun Kumar Gupta had been recommended by senior leader and BJP MLC Ashok Khajuria.
However, the Padma Shri was finally bestowed on Prof. Kashi Nath Pandita, former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir. He was the only person from J&K to get the award this year. He had in the past accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his trip to Iran besides having contributed heavily in highlighting issues of displaced Kashmiri Pandits. What makes his award interesting is the fact that his name had not been recommended by anyone. Instead, he had applied for the award himself and the committee rewarded him.
Others who had applied for Padma Awards included Kewal Krishan Shakir, Kewal Krishan Sharma, Abdul Rashid Barki, Ashutosh Sharma, Baba Mohammed Afzal, Beena Deepak Budki, Prof. S.K.Bhalla, Mohammed Rafiq Anjum, Dushyant Sharma, Farooq Dar, Pawan Singh, John Mohammed Akhoon, Tariq Tapal, Santosh Khajuria, Kuldeep Sharma, Lalit Magotra, Lalita Sharma, Madan Dogra, Mohan Lal Sharma, Nardish Kumar, Navneet Gupta, Pran Kishore Kohli, Prof. Rita Jatinder, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rakesh Kumar Sharma, Rattan Kumar Amarnath Parimoo, Rattan Lal Hangloo, Dr. Rekha Harish Dang, Reapan Tickoo, Dr. Sanjogita Soodan, Subhash Chander Shehgal and Virendra Mahajan.