The Indian government has conferred the coveted Padma awards on a group of “unsung” achievers this year, all who have contributed to different fields like social welfare, arts, traditional medicine and healing, and recycling of waste. This year's list features three Padma Shri awardees from Gujarat. Photo-journalist Zaverilal Mehta is a veteran associated with Gujarat Samachar since the mid-80s. His camera has indisputably captured compelling stories, including the devastating aftermath of the Kutch cyclone of 1998 and the 2001 earthquake. Well-known in the state, he has long been known for his work. Zaverilal has also documented the life and time of 13 chief ministers of Gujarat, with his lens telling their tales.
The highway and canal man of Gujarat, chairman and managing director of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL),Satyanarayansinh Shivsinh Rathore, is a rare officer who joined the Gujarat Service of Engineers to be promoted to additional chief secretary, just before his retirement. He was appointed CMD of SSNNL to complete the challenging the task of the controversial task Sardar Sarovar dam, its canal network, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet project, the Statue of Unity. Rathore is credited with development of the road network of Gujarat including major national and state highways. “I am really surprised by this honour. I am thankful to PM Narendra Modi and the Gujarat government, which gave me several opportunities to use my skills for the development of the state. I am thankful to my colleagues in the R&B department and SSNNL. Without them, I am nothing,”he said.
Senior medical oncologist Dr Pankaj Shah is a pioneer in developing medical oncology in the country. Retired as director of Gujarat Cancer Research Institute (GCRI), he has been working for cancer treatment and de-addiction awareness for the prevention of cancer for 43 years. He is known for establishing a permanent exhibition on cancer and tobacco de-addiction at the Community Oncology in Ahmedabad. “I am very happy to be honoured by the government. Cancer is a major health concern in the country and I hope to that enough resources are allocated for detection of cancer in early stage to save maximum lives,” Shah said.
A total of 85 people have been conferred with the Padma awardess this year, including three Padma Vibhushan, nine Padma Bhushan, and 73 Padma Shri. The list this year seems to have kept out Bollywood stars, Lutyens hanger-ons and others who are widely known. A minister said, “This is a recognition for Bharat and not for the high profile set.”
Around 16 awardees are foreigners, PIOs or NRIs from countries including Russia- late Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin, Singapore's Tommy Koh for public affairs, Saudi Arabia's Nouf Marwaai, the first certified yoga instructor in Saudi Arabia and founder of Arab Yoga Foundation. Awardees were also included from Japan, Indonesia, and the US.
The few known names among the awardees were music composer Ilaiyaraaja, who received the Padma Vibhushan, Hindustani classical music exponent Ghulam Mustafa Khan who also received the Padma Vibhushan, cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Bhopuri singer Sharda Sinha, and painter Laxman Pai, all who received the Padma Bhushan, actor Manoj Joshi, and tennis player Somdev Devvarman, both who received the Padma Shri.