DATELINE INDIA: these are now the “People’s Padma” awards

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In a rare but welcome gesture, the Indian government has honored prominent figures of Bangladesh with Padma Awards.
Significantly, India and Bangladesh are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence and the centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as well as the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. That aside, President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Bangladesh is also scheduled for next month, although there is no official confirmation yet. If that were to happen, it would coincide with the Vijay Diwas celebrations which would be held on December 16.
“A friend of India” and a “hero of the 1971 war” were among those honored at Rahtrapati Bhawan, namely former High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzam Ali and Colonel Qazi Sajjad Ali Zahir. While Syed Muazzam Ali received the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honor for the year 2020, Colonel Qazi Sajjad Ali Zahir was nominated for the Padma Shri Award for the year 2021. Muazzam Ali has received the Padma Bhushan posthumously.
A true friend of India, Syed Muazzam Ali was the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. He was Bangladesh’s high commissioner to India for a long time. He died shortly after the end of his tenure as High Commissioner in India. Syed Muazzam Ali rebelled against the Pakistani government and declared his allegiance to Bangladesh in 1971 while serving in the Pakistani Embassy there. He was also Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.

A war hero, Colonel Qazi Sajjad Ali Zaheer joined the Pakistani army at the end of 1969. He was appointed to the artillery corps. Seeing the barbaric atrocities committed by the Pakistani army in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Colonel Qazi Sajjad Ali Zaheer left the country and reached India. Colonel Qazi Sajjad Ali Zaheer then established contact with the Indian army and played a key role in the 1971 war. The Pakistani army issued a death warrant against him, which continues to this day.

Zahir, 71, who took part in the liberation war in the Sylhet region in 1971, was presented with the president’s highest civilian honor at Rashtrapati Bhawan while Ali’s award was received by his wife .

Enamul Haque, founding director general of the National Museum, also received Kovind’s Padma Shri in a separate investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday. A distinguished archaeologist, Haque is also a well-known cultural activist in Bangladesh. He has taught at many universities, including the University of Dhaka.

Bangladesh aside, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to be commended for turning the Padma Prizes into rewards for the common man: a point Union Minister Amit Shah made.

It was none other than Prime Minister Modi who invited nominations from people doing outstanding grassroots work to nominate people for the “People’s Padma Awards”.

The point about prefixing People to coveted awards cannot be ignored. This, if we can go so far as to say, changes the situation.

Thanks to the effort of the Modi government and its conscious decision, the profile of the winners underwent a drastic change: dramatic because people who could not even pronounce Rashtrapati Bhawan or know that it finally existed did so there- down and were honored in his enclosure. This, in real terms, connects a government to real people and erases the us and them syndrome.

If government sources are to be believed, the transformation of the Padma Awards into the “People’s Padma” has been a priority since Modi came to power in 2014. As a result, applications were opened and the Modi government authorized the award. general public to name people. for rewards. In his Mann ki Baat earlier this year, the PM spoke about the rewards becoming people-focused: a visible deviation from those being grabbed by the privileged few. The numbers alone prove it: this year, for example, the number of appointments was twenty times higher than in 2014, when the Modi government came to power.

The Union Home Office has also invited online applications for recommendations to make the process fair, free and absolutely transparent. In much needed excess, he called on all citizens to make recommendations and nominations for awards, adding that concerted efforts could be made to identify talented individuals whose excellence and achievement deserved recognition among women, the weaker strata of society, Scheduled and Scheduled Tribes people, people with reduced mobility and all those who render selfless service to society.

Because those who know the Padma prices are well aware of the elitist connotation of these prices. In the past, we usually conferred the who’s who, if we can use the term or the hob-nobbers who had the right connections or the lobbying powers to do so. This does not mean, however, that all winners should be painted with one brush. There were certainly many that were well worth the price, but there was still a price out of reach for the common people or those who worked silently in the field. In other words, the base quotient was largely absent.

The Modi government has strived to change this to a large extent and has largely succeeded in this direction. This comes from the fact that every year more and more people, strangers, strangers and people working both selflessly and silently in the field without any expectations except the results of their sweat and blood. , have achieved what in the pre-Modi days was a coveted and elusive list. The change, through the shift in focus of the current dispensation, has helped ordinary men and women in India take the first step up the ladder that has never been theirs.

Who had heard of Harekala Hajabba, an uneducated orange seller who built a school and educated some 175 village children? Or the Tulasi Gowda which planted 30,000 saplings? Both took to the stage barefoot but won hearts when they took to receiving their respective awards.

“How could I not walk barefoot to the stage,” Hajabba said as his parents’ memories lit up as he approached to receive the President Ram Nath Kovind award: “My parents “, he said,” could not afford clothes or shoes, “he recalled as the hall erupted into applause during the honor.

How many have heard of Lakhimi Baruah who created a cooperative bank to make women from disadvantaged backgrounds financially independent and secure? Or Parkash Kaur who raised abandoned girls? Chutni Devi, once stigmatized as a witch, who fought and saved several women from this evil? Then there is Tsultrim Chinjor who sold his ancestral land to build a bridge between Ramjak in Jammu and Kashmir and his village in Zanskar.

Most of these people don’t make the headlines; some of their names cannot even be pronounced, but the government not only handpicked them but also helped present their work to Indians and the rest of the world.

Therefore, when Prime Minister Modi once said that “Only politicians’ doctors get rewards!” We opened it up to people, ”he wasn’t wrong. Or the fact that the country has a lot of talented people working at the grassroots but never heard of or seen outside of their field.

Taking to Twitter to invite people to nominate them for the award, the Prime Minister said, “India has many talented people, who are doing an exceptional job at the grassroots. Often we don’t see or hear much of them. The fact that Prime Minister Modi spoke of “knowing the way” to the prize has been a blow to those who use back door channels to get what they clearly don’t deserve.

But then the process of ordinary people to obtain Padma’s honor is not the only one this year. In fact, since the Modi government took power, unsung heroes have been praised, whether it is Karimul Haque of Bengal more popular as “dada ambulance” or any other. For the uninitiated, Haque transported patients to hospitals on his bicycle. Marked after losing his mother due to lack of medical facilities, Haque was awarded in 2017.

That said, that’s not to say that the Crusaders weren’t honored by the pre-Modi regimes, except that they were far away and few in number among the celebrity rows. Under the Modi dispensation, the old order underwent a change and the unknown faces overtook the known people.

Yet the Modi government has not given the green light to the usual suspects: if one can use the term. There is a splash of color going through the movie stars, although there are many choices that can be questioned including Kangana Ranaut and Karan Johar. Neither one has the right to exemplary work. Additionally, one of the two was on NCB’s radar when the controversial death of actor Sushant Rajput caught the eye and a videotape of a rave party was released widely. Whether the price is to launder these “sins” remains a question mark.

Nor can we miss the overdose of the politicians who received the awards. George Fernandes, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, former Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and former Chief Minister Assam Tarun Gogoi received, among others, the Padma Awards this year.

While on politics and politicians, Congress accused the BJP for the “disproportionate number” of winners from states linked to the polls: 11, from Tamil Nadu, nine from Assam, seven from Bengal and six from Kerala.

Therefore, absolving the Modi government from playing politics can be a quick guess, although it cannot be taken away from its intention to usher in change and accommodate deserving and lesser-known silent workers, while keeping ample space for political maneuvering. Having said that, it has to be admitted that a good start has been made in shifting the attention from celebrities to ordinary men and women in India.


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