A Padma for courage?

by Ritwik on March 26, 2011

Update: I have now made a petition for this – http://www.petitiononline.com/padma/

Please sign and circulate widely.


The President of the Republic gave away the Padma awards recently. Many famous and worthy names, from a variety of fields, made the cut.

It made me  think: should the country honour a chosen few among its citizens for displaying raw courage, commitment  and unwavering perseverance in the face of mighty odds?

I can think of no reason why Mrs. Neelam Katara, Ms. Sabrina Lall and Mr. Chaman Lal Mattoo should not be awarded for distinguished public service. Each of these individuals managed to overcome personal tragedy to fight against the most rotten substructure of the Indian state. Their courage helped restore, albielt to a limited degree, a measure of faith in the criminal justice system of India.

If one were to choose the most serious amongst the countless ills plaguing the country, one cannot look further than the almost complete collapse of the rule of law. In fact, most of India’s problems can be traced to this malady. Democracy itself is threatened by our systemic tendency to twist the law to suit the accused.

Each one of the three – Katara, Lall and Mattoo – dared to fight against powerful elements who are still deeply entrenched in the system. They did not flinch in the face of disappointment, sensationalism and at times, sheer coercion.

I hope that the powers-that-be take notice of the valour shown by these heroes and by honouring them, further elevate the prestige of the Padma awards.


Strongly agree!

by Aaditya on March 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm. #

@Aaditya: Then let’s spread the message…

by Ritwik Agrawal on March 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm. #

Dear Ritwik,
I couldn’t agree more with you! As I read your message, I wondered why such an idea had not occurred to me. The reason, perhaps, is that long, long ago I stopped taking the State honours seriously. But that cynicism will not do. If the likes of Katara, Lall and Mattoo can defy this very callous system, and provide what could hopefully be the thin of the wedge to transform that system, there is reason to prevail upon the system to honour such outstanding persons.
Thanks for sharing your truly important suggestion with me,

by Sudhir Chandra on March 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm. #

Right you are as usual. Make for better use of Padma awards than the recent awards given where we are left wondering – why did so and so get it?

by Neelakshi on March 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm. #

@Dr. Chandra, thanks for your kind comments :)

I agree that the utility of state awards can be questioned per se, but as long as they exist, it wouldn’t be amiss to award them to the right people!

by Ritwik Agrawal on March 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm. #

But who decides the people who receive the awards?

by Raghuvir on March 26, 2011 at 10:45 pm. #

@Raghuvir: From the government of india website (http://india.gov.in/myindia/padma_awards.php):

Padma Awards, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri are given for exceptional and distinguished service in any field including service rendered by Government servants. The recommendations for Padma Awards are received from the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations, Central Ministries/Departments, Institutions of Excellence, etc. which are considered by an Awards Committee. On the basis of the recommendations of the Awards Committee, and after approval of the Home Minister, Prime Minister and President, the Padma Awards are announced on the eve of the Republic Day.

by Ritwik Agrawal on March 26, 2011 at 11:16 pm. #

We now have a petition for this: http://www.petitiononline.com/padma/

Please sign and circulate widely.

by Ritwik Agrawal on March 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm. #

Why the Padma,specifically? Though I am uncomfortable with state awards as such, I think a separate batch of awards should be constituted for people like the Kataras and the Mattoos for displaying sheer courage in the face of the system and showing us the will and the way to fight against “something rotten” in the state. Just saying. A very vital point raised though, so kudos for that.

by Yasodhara Rakshit on March 27, 2011 at 12:51 am. #

@Yasodhara: For one I think that the definition of the Padma awards is broad enough.

Two, a separate award of the sort you describe can be instituted by non-state actors — I think it unlikely that the State would specifically institute an award for people who fight against its failings.

by Ritwik Agrawal on March 27, 2011 at 12:54 am. #

Very good suggestion…perhaps then the largely lost prestige of these awards could be restored.

by Ritambhara on March 28, 2011 at 8:16 am. #

I agree with you. All of them have fought their fight alone in many ways. But atleast now standing with them we may be this will encourage many people across India to fight against politician and money power people in the country.

by Bhushan on March 29, 2011 at 12:43 am. #

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