The Indian Award System/Indian Honor System is a primary recognition from the government of the Republic of India. It is an honorary declaration to the personalities who have contributed to the progress, achievements, and human endeavor for the nation or the community. The Indian award system is broadly categorized into 5 categories, they are; Leadership, Literature, Civilian, Patriotic and particular. No prize of money is associated with these awards.
Let's discuss about civilian awards which honor civilians of India for their prowess, achievement, and inspiring millions of others to walk in their path; there are two types awards that are awarded; they are; Bharat Ratna and Padma Awards.
Bharat Ratna Award:
Bharat Ratna Award is the highest civilian award in the Republic of India; it was instituted in the year 1954 on 2nd January. The award is conferred "in recognition of exceptional service of the highest order", it is considered without the distinction of race, occupation, position, sex, and nationality. This award was originally limited to the arts, literature, science and public services but the government had broadened the criteria to encompass "any field of human endeavor" in December 2011. Recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime minister to the President. Only 3 recipients are nominated for Bharat Ratna award every year. Recipients receive a certificate signed by the President called Sanad and a Peepal leaf shaped medallion made of gold with 35mm in diameter of a circle, with the design of bursting sun in the center of the obverse side of the medallion. Also, the words Bharat Ratna are inscribed in silver tilt in the bottom of sun design written in Devanagiri script; this was an old design the new design is also of Peepal leaf made of gold about 59mm in length, 49mm in width, and has 3.9mm of thickness which is rimmed with Platinum. The inscription on the obverse side remained the same but made with Platinum; reverse side of the medallion has Indian emblem engraved in burnished Bronze tilt and Indian motto "Satyameva Jayate" is inscribed below Indian emblem. All the design of the medallion remained same except a few changes discussed above it has a 59mm wide ribbon attached to it so it can be worn around the neck.
Its first recipients were politician C.Rajagopalachari, scientist C.V.Raman, and philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who were honored in 1954. Since then, the award was bestowed to 45 individuals including 11 who were awarded posthumously. The recent recipients were sportsman Sachin Tendulkar, Indian independence activist and the president of INC(Indian National Congress) in 1909-18 Madan Mohan Malaviya(posthumously), and former Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee; among these recipients Sachin Tendulkar was the youngest recipient and the only sportsman to ever receive this award at the age 40 and the eldest recipient was social reformer Dhondo Keshav Karve awarded on his 100th birthday. In 1966, former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first to be awarded posthumously. There is no monetary grant associated with this award and the recipients are ranked 7th in the Indian order of precedence; although the recipients are forbidden constitutionally to use the name of the award as title in suffix or prefix to the recipient's name. It was also awarded to the natural Indian Mother Teresa in 1980 though she wasn't born in India; also former South African President Nelson Mandela received one in 1990.
As with many official announcements, recipients are announced and registered in The Gazette of India, a publication released by the Department of Publication, Ministry of Urban Development used for official government notices; without publication in the Gazette, conferral of the award is not considered official. Recipients whose awards have been revoked or restored, both of which require the authority of the President, are also registered in the Gazette. Recipients whose awards have been revoked are required to surrender their medal, and their name to be struck from the register.
The Bharat Ratna along with other civil honors were briefly suspended in total for 2 times since they were institutioned; once was during the period 1977-80 because of the change in national government and other when Public Interest Litigation(PIL) challenged constitutional validity of the awards. In 1992, the government's decision to confer the award posthumously for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose met with controversy. The PIL, lasted from 1992-95 and the following 1997 Supreme Court decision to lapse the press communiqué announcing Bose's award; it was the only time when an award was conferred but cancelled.
The Bharat Ratna award had spurred many criticisms since it was instituted in 1954. They were regarded as "political awards" by many; as the Prime minister of India was the one to recommend the nominees for the awards to President, but then Prime ministers Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru(1947-64) and Indira Gandhi(1966-77, 1980-84) honored themselves in the years 1955 and 1977, respectively. Many Prime Ministers over the years have used these awards to placate voters to vote for their government by honoring regional idols; Indira Gandhi's one such decision met with criticism for posthumously honoring K.Kamaraj in an attempt to placate Tamil Voters for the Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections in 1977. When Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1984-89) conferred the award posthumously to the Tamil actor and former chief minister of Tamil Nadu M.G.Ramachandran in 1988; in a bid to influence the Tamil Voters for the Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections in 1989. This decision was much criticized for awarding Ramachandran before the freedom activists Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and Vallabhbhai Patel who were bestowed the honor in 1990 and 1991 respectively. Other major criticism was that, the awards were only conferred to the personalities only after they have received global recognition such cases happened when Mother Teresa received Bharat Ratna a year after she received Nobel Peace Prize; also the same happened with acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray who was conferred Bharat Ratna the same year he received Academy Award ; this same repeated again in the case of Economist Amartya Sen who received Bharat Ratna an year after he became a Nobel Laureate economist in 1998.
Bharat Ratna was also surrounded with many controversies one of them occurred on 23rd January 1992, when a press communiqué was published by the President's Secretariat conferring to posthumously honor Subhash Chandra Bose ; which led to led to the first PIL(Public Interest Litigation) filed over Bharat Ratna award in Calcutta High Court to revoke the award .The petitioner took objection to the conferral of the award and its posthumous mention of Bose saying that honoring a personality higher than the award is "ridiculous" and was an act of "carelessness" to classify such a person with past and future recipients. It also said that the award cannot be conferred to Bose posthumously as the Government of India had not officially accepted his death on 18 August 1945. The petitioner also requested the whereabouts of Bose from 18 August 1945 till date, based on the information collected by the 1956 Shah Nawaz Committee and the 1970 Khosla Commission. The family members of Bose also expressed their unwillingness to accept the award. Also, two PILs were filed in the High Courts of India; one in the Kerala High Court on 13 February 1992 by Balaji Raghavan and another in the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Indore Bench) on 24 August 1992 by Satya Pal Anand. Both petitioners raised a question about the civilian awards being "Titles" per an interpretation of Article 18 (1) of the Constitution of India. On 25 August 1992, the Madhya Pradesh High Court issued a notice temporarily suspending all civilian awards. A Special Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India was formed comprising five judges; A. M. Ahmadi C. J., Kuldip Singh, B. P. Jeevan Reddy, N. P. Singh, and S. Saghir Ahmad. On 15 December 1995, the Special Division Bench restored the awards and delivered a judgment that the "Bharat Ratna and Padma awards are not titles under Article 18 of the Constitution of India". Another controversy was made upon the announcement made in November 2013, that C.N.R.Rao and Sachin Tendulkar were to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, and multiple PILs were filed challenging the conferring of the awards. The PIL filed against Rao declared that other Indian scientists, such as Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai, had contributed more than Rao and his claim of publishing 1400 research papers was "physically impossible". The suit also stated that as Rao had proven cases of plagiarism, he should not be presented with the award but rather should be annulled. The PIL filed against Tendulkar to the Election Commission of India under the Right to Information Act indicated that the awarding him the Bharat Ratna was a violation of the model code of conduct. The petitioner noted that as Tendulkar was an Indian National Congress nominated Member of Rajya Sabha, the decision to award him the Bharat Ratna would influence the voters of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram where the election process was underway at the time. Another PIL was filed against Tendulkar and a few ministers, "alleging a conspiracy to ignore" an Indian field hockey player Dhyan Chand."
Padma awards are the second highest honors awarded to the civilians of the Republic of India honoring their prowess and contribution to the progress of their field of work; these awards are mainly classified into 3 classes or known as Vargh; namely Padma Vibhushan(Pehla Vargh), Padma Bhushan(Doosra Vargh), Padma Shri(Teesra Vargh).
These awards were instituted in the same year as Bharat Ratna in 1954; these awards are awarded on the Republic day that on 26th January of every year. These awards seek to recognize work of any distinction ranging from Sports, Literature, Arts, Scientific research etc.., including government service; regardless of the recipients' age, race, position or sex. This award is not conferred posthumously to the recipients. However, exceptions can be made in a highly deserving case where if the recipient meets demise after conferring the award but prior to the Republic Day event. These awards were established by Presidential Decree on 2nd January 1954. It's first recipients were Satyendra Nath Bose, Nand Lal Bose, Zakir Hussain, Balasaheb Gangadhar Kher, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, and V. K. Krishna Menon in the year 1954.
In contrast with Bharat Ratna where only 3 nominees were given each year, Padma awards can be bestowed to any number of nominees who showed exceptional and distinguished service in their field of profession. As of 2015, only 303 people thus have been awarded these awards and there are 105 living recipients in 2015 and the oldest living recipient as of 2015 is S.I.Padmavati (97-98) years old; the youngest recipient as of 2015 is Sachin Tendulkar (41).
The design of medallion of Padma award had gone through several changes over the course of time. During 1954-55, the first medallion was a circular Gold medal with 35mm diameter, with an embossed lotus flower in the center and the legend "Padma Vibhushan" above and a floral wreath below. The obverse side had the Indian state emblem with the legend Desh Seva (National Service) above and a lotus wreath below. No record exists to show whether this design was used to present a medal to the awardees; in 1955, the badge design was altered to be a "mainly circular" 28.5mm toned bronze badge with geometrical patterns. The center had a lotus flower with four major petals embossed in white gold. Above and below this flower, the name of the decoration Padma Vibhushan was embossed in silver-gilt; the third design in 1957 retained the same design but the material was changed from toned Bronze to burnished Bronze. This design for the medal was same for all the other Padma awards namely Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri the only distinction is the color of the ribbon attached to the medal where; Padma Vibhushan has a solid Purple ribbon; Padma Bhushan has a White striped Purple ribbon attached to the medal, and Padma Shri has a dual white grey Striped Purple ribbon attached to the medal.
Padma Awards order of precedence puts Padma Vibhushan in the highest order; Padma Bhushan in second and Padma Shri in the third position. Over the years many recipients have refused to accept these awards due various reasons including personal pride and what is construed as 'national interest'. Some of the famous refusals were S Janaki, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Romila Thapar, Sitara Devi, Phanishwarnath Renu and Salim Khan .
Though, Indian Awards System has recognized a great many of personalities to bestow their work with awards and as such titles. It is always to be remembered that an award is just a compliment to the persons' work but shouldn't be taken as the absolute reason behind the work and remember that in the grand scheme of things it is the persons' virtue and services are remembered the most than the awards they received.
Anne Phani Teja