The Padma Awards are a series of state civilian honours for exceptional and distinguished service to the nation in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved. They come after the Bharat Ratna in order of precedence.
The three awards under this category, the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, are announced on the eve of Republic Day and are awarded by the President. All three Padma awards consist of a medallion that carries a lotus and the Indian emblem.
The President has conferred the Padma awards on 89 persons in 2017. This includes seven Padma Vibhushan, seven Padma Bhushan and 75 Padma Shri awardees. Nineteen of the awardees are women and the list also includes five persons from the category of foreigners, Non-Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs). Six of the awards were given posthumously.
It is the usual practice to invite recommendations every year from all state and Union Territory (UT) governments, ministries and departments of the central government, Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan awardees and institutes of Excellence.
Recommendations are also sent by central or state ministers, Chief Ministers, Governors and members of Parliament. Private individuals can also nominate somebody for these awards. In fact, even self-nomination is allowed.
These recommendations are taken up the Padma Awards Committee. This is headed by the Cabinet Secretary and includes the Home Secretary, Secretary to the President and four to six eminent persons as members.
While no rigid criteria for selection is applied by the Padma Awards Committee, it looks for life time achievement of an individual while making a selection. There ought to be an element of public service in the achievements of the person to be selected.
- Along with the medallion, the awardees are given a Sanad signed by the President of India. They also receive a small replica of the medallion, which can be worn in the course of any ceremonial and state functions.
- The award does not add up to a title and cannot be used as a suffix or prefix to the recipient’s name.
- The award is generally not conferred after death. But in highly deserving cases, the government can consider giving an award posthumously.
- A higher category of Padma award can be conferred on a person after a gap of at least five years from the earlier Padma award. A relaxation can be made by the Awards Committee in highly deserving cases.
- No Padma awards were given in the year of 1978, 1979, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997.
- The total number of awards to be given in a year (excluding posthumous awards and to foreigners) should not be more than 120.
The Padma Vibhushan is the second highest civilian award of the country. It was on 2 January 1954 that a press release was published from the office of the secretary to the President of India announcing the creation of two civilian awards – Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, and the three-tier Padma Vibhushan, classified into “Pahela Warg” (Class I), “Dusra Warg” (Class II), and “Tisra Warg” (Class III), which rank below the Bharat Ratna.
The Padma Vibhushan was reclassified into three different awards: the Padma Vibhushan, the highest of the three, followed by the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri on 15 January 1955.
The Padma Vibhushan award is given for “exceptional and distinguished service”, without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex.
The first recipients of the award were Satyendra Nath Bose, Nand Lal Bose, Zakir Hussain, Balasaheb Gangadhar Kher, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, and V. K. Krishna Menon, who were honoured in 1954. In 1972, Aditya Nath Jha, Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, and Vikram Sarabhai became the first recipients to be honoured posthumously.
The third highest honour is the Padma Bhushan which is given in recognition of “distinguished service of highest order” by any person.
When instituted in 1954, 23 recipients were honoured with the Padma Bhushan. D.C. Kizhakemuri was the first recipient to be honoured with a Padma Bhushan posthumously in 1999.
Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan. Padma Shri is given for ‘distinguished service’ in any field including Arts, Education, Industry, Literature, Science, Sports, Medicine, Social Service and Public Affairs.
It has also been awarded to some distinguished individuals who were not citizens of India but did contribute in various ways to India.