Eight eminent personalities from the northeast and India’s first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, were among 54 personalities who were conferred Padma awards by President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday.

Of the eight Padma Shri awardees, three were from Manipur, two from Assam and one each from Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.

V L Nghaka of Mizoram and Ms. Badaplin War of Meghalaya received the award for their contribution to Literature and Education. T. Senka Ao of Nagaland and Dhaneswar Engti of Assam received for their contribution to Literature.

Shakuntala Choudhary, a 102-year-old Gandhian social worker and freedom fighter popularly known as ‘Shakuntala Baideo’, who passed away last month, was another notable personality from Assam awarded for her contribution to social work.

Lourembam Bino Devi and Konsam Ibomcha Singh of Manipur received the award for Art. Konsam Ibomcha Singh was awarded the Padma Shri in recognition of his distinguished services in Arts, of preserving the century-old dying art of Laiphadabi (doll) making of the Meitei community in Manipur.

Muktamani Devi, an innovator and entrepreneur from Manipur, who founded a firm to manufacture hand-knitted woollen shoes and trained more than 1000 people, received the prestigious award for her contribution to Trade and Industry.

In addition to these awardees from the region, Chief Of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat was given Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian award, posthumously.

Apart from Rawat, vocalist Prabha Atre, former president of Geeta Press Radheyshyam Khemka (posthumous) and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh (Posthumous) have also been conferred with the Padma Vibhushan award.

Cyrus Poonawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute of India, which manufactured Covishield, along with Krishna Ella and Suchitra Ella, founder of Bharat Biotech, the manufactured Covaxin, have been awarded with Padma Bhushan, under Trade and Industry category, for their contribution in the fight against COVID-19. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has also been conferred with Padma Bhushan under public affairs category.

Other among the notable recipients of Padma Shree are singer Sonu Nigam and Olympian Neeraj Chopra.

This year, no names were announced for ‘Bharat Ratna’, India’s highest civilian award, which was last awarded in 2019 to former president Pranab Mukherjee, social reformer Nanaji Deshmukh and noted singer Bhupen Hazarika.

Many of those who received the Padma awards were “unsung heroes”, including 125-year-old yoga practitioner Swami Sivananda.

Members of the audience clapped as a bare-feet Sivananda, dressed in a simple white kurta and dhoti, knelt before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promptly got up and bowed, touching the ground as he returned the greeting.

These awards are given in various disciplines and fields such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc.

The Narendra Modi government has been honouring many such “unsung heroes” who have been contributing to society in different ways with Padma awards since 2014 when it came to power for the first time.

Among the dignitaries present on the occasion were Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

‘Padma Vibhushan’ is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; ‘Padma Bhushan’ for distinguished service of high order and ‘Padma Shri’ for distinguished service in any field.

The awards are announced on the eve of Republic Day every year and are conferred by the President at ceremonial functions which are held at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

This year a total of 128 Padma awards are being conferred, including two duo cases (in a duo case, the award is counted as one). The list of awardees comprises four Padma Vibhushan, 17 Padma Bhushan and 107 Padma Shri awards.

As many as 34 of the awardees are women and the list also includes 10 persons from the category of Foreigners, NRI, PIO, OCI and 13 posthumous awardees. The second civil investiture ceremony is scheduled to be held on March 28.

Former West Bengal chief minister and CPI-M leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was among the Padma Bhushan awardees, had refused to accept the honour.

– With inputs from PTI

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