Although allegations of discrimination in Padma awards have been made occasionally in the past, since the Bhartiya Janta Party government has sworn power in the centre, strong objections have been raised on Padma awards. This time voice of discontent has been reported from the southern states of India and especially, Telangana which needs to be investigated.
It has been alleged repeatedly about the Padma awards that each time preferences are given to film actor-actresses and that too to them who has no significant contribution. There is also no clear criterion as to which actor or actress can be rewarded.
There have also been strong allegations of caste discrimination, and there is a broad perception that it is easier for people in the influential strata to get the Padma awards.
Allegations of discrimination against Telangana
Apart from the above allegations, this time there are also allegations of provincial discrimination, which prima facie seem to be true. On behalf of Telangana, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao himself has raised these questions of discrimination.
Chandrashekhar Rao sees the political reason behind this. It is to be noted that Telangana is one of those states where the Bharatiya Janata Party was unable to find a foothold despite making efforts to woo the voters. Chandrashekhar Rao has been vocal about the issues of inflation, underemployment and VAT.
The Telangana chief minister said that the central government does not honour the people of Telangana. The government has deliberately chosen to ignore the Telangana citizens while giving prestigious awards. It is to be noted that only Kanaka Raju of Telangana’s art world has been included in the Padma Awards for 2021.
The neglect of Telangana has increased continuously
Earlier in 2020, Padma awards were given to only three personalities from Telangana. Padma Shri was given to badminton player PV Sindhu, progressive farmer Chintala Venkata Reddy and litterateur Vijayasarathy Sribhasyam. There was no name from Telangana in Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
Similarly, in 2019 too, only two people from Telangana could find a place in the list of Padma awards. Among them, football player Sunil Chhetri, and poet Srivennala Sitaram Shastri were considered worthy of Padma Shri. In 2018, no person from Telangana was considered worthy of the Padma award.
Punishing Telangana for not voting BJP in 2017?
Surprisingly, in 2017 i.e. before the Telangana Assembly elections, 7 people of Telangana were awarded Padma Shri. In those elections, the BJP wielded power in Telangana the same way it did in West Bengal earlier this year.
It is believed that then the people of Telangana had to be wooed, so 7 people from there were awarded the Padma Shri. A glimpse of its preparation was also seen in 2016. Then nine people of Telangana were given Padma awards, out of which 5 were Padma Shri, 1 Padma Vibhushan and 4 Padma Bhushan.
It seems that in the years before the elections, the BJP government was constantly showing talent in Telangana, but when the people rejected the BJP in the assembly elections, the central government completely sidelined Telangana in 2018. Only 2 were given a place in 2019 and 3 were selected in 2020 but in 2021 again only one was given place.
Share of other states in Padma awards
On a regional basis, while Telangana was given only one Padma Shri in 2021, Assam got 9 Padma Shri and one Padma Bhushan. Uttar Pradesh got 7 Padma Shri and 2 Padma Bhushan. Uttarakhand also got two Padma Shri.
To take political advantage in the elections in West Bengal, the BJP government elected 6 Padma Shri from Bengal and one Padma Shri from Bangladesh. Among other smaller states, one Padma Bhushan and two Padma Shri were elected from Haryana. Two Padma Vibhushan and 4 Padma Shri were also elected from a Union Territory like Delhi, which proves the point of former minister and senior leader Sharad Yadav that people close to power have more access to these awards.
Other people have also raised questions
Renowned social activist Dr Manisha Bangar has also alleged discrimination against Telangana in Padma awards. A doctor by profession Manisha Bangar is an internationally renowned Gastroenterologist and Liver Transplant Specialist from Hyderabad and has been working in the field of political, social and health for the past two decades empowering the marginalized communities. For the past several years voices have been raised to award Dr Manisha Bangar with Padma awards. Dr Bangar has been previously awarded the prestigious Ishwaribai Award by the Telangana government.
Dr Manisha says that “As long as the BJP hoped that the people of Telangana would support the party in elections, it distributed Padma awards to the people of Telangana very generously, but when the public outrightly dismissed BJP in elections and from governing the state, the party has turned its eye.
Dr Manisha Bangar also says that “Along with regionalism, casteism is also a big issue in these awards and this situation has been going on since the rule of Nehru and Congress.”
Dr Manisha Bangar further adds that the scope has been widened to avoid criticism and artist scholars too have been included in the list of Padma Shri. A large number of these people are awarded without any significant contributions to society.
While these people take all the credit many deserving candidates are ignored and forgotten despite their huge contribution to uplifting society.
There has been a change in the rules from this time
Since the ongoing year, the rules for Padma awards have been changed. Now citizens too can nominate their heroes for these awards. This is, however, a welcome but unfortunately, no changes have been made in selection criteria. So this step of inviting the commoner’s application won’t change anything in reality.
Dr Manisha Bangar is Padma Shri nominee for 2022, says that “This time the public was given the option, many social organizations and government organizations have nominated me for the Padma Shri. Organizations that have sent my nominations have been ignored for a long time. But given the situation, BJP is likely to ignore the people of Telangana and their wishes.
Diversity should be seen in awards
Well-known writer and social activist HL Dusadh also say that “This is an era when speaking against the government is considered as speaking against the country, so in this era, the government should consider those people as good for the government who are working for the good of the country.
The name of Shri Dusadh has also been sent by many organizations for Padma Shri. Mr Dusadh is the founder of the Bahujan Diversity Mission and he has been raising the demands for the implementation of diversity in all possible fields. He has written more than a hundred books on the same. He believes that there is no better work than implementing diversity; it is in the best interest of the country.
Mr Dusadh says that the present government is disappointing on every front, so there are no hopes that this government will ensure diversity in awards distribution.
People aligned with my ideas have sent my name for Padma Shri so that it can be seen as a claim to introduce diversity in the awards.
However, this time the names of the artists, litterateurs, engineers, doctors, sportspersons, etc. belonging to SC, ST, minority and OBC have been sent for the Padma Awards. And if the government pays honest and unbiased attention to these nominations, then hopefully next year’s awards will invite no controversies.
This work is a translation of the article written by senior journalist Mahendra Yadav (https://4thview.co/discrimination-with-telangana-in-padma-awards/)
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