Bhubaneswar: The selection criteria of Padma awards have often drawn criticism from various quarters. Critics have time and again pointed fingers at the choice of awardees, while many say that a number of deserving candidates have often been deprived of the coveted award.

However, despite all that the announcement of the list of awardees every year ahead of the Republic Day generates immense curiosity and is a much-awaited affair. And why not? After all, these are the highest civilian awards conferred on individuals by the President of India for their distinguished public service.

Since its institution in 1954, Padma awards so far have been conferred on 4,756 individuals, with Delhi topping the list with 815 awards, closely followed by Maharashtra with 799 awards. On the other hand, in the past 66 years the number of personalities who have received Padma awards from Odisha is a meagre 84, less than two individuals on average every year.

However, 2020 has brought a lot of cheer for the state, with as many as 11 Odias having been chosen for the awards. In fact, the maximum number of awardees this year is from Odisha, barring Maharashtra. This is quite a surprise given that the maximum awards in a single year so far have been four, which was in 2018.


Sunday POST takes a look at the achievements of this year’s awardees from Odisha.

Manoj Das:

A Padma Bhushan for Manoj Das, one of country’s foremost bilingual authors didn’t come as a surprise to most. In fact the state cultural fraternity feels the award was a long overdue. He was awarded Padma Shri in 2001 and Kendra Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 2006. The Escapist, A Tiger at Twilight, Tandralokara Prahari, Abu Purusuha and Amruta Phala are among the select works of this former editor of The Heritage and Saraswati Samman winner. Das’ wide body of work in both Odia and English includes a range of novels, short stories, travelogue, poems and pieces on history and culture.


Manmohan Mohapatra:

After winning eight National awards and four state film awards, a Padma award was just a formality for Manmohan Mahapatra. Unfortunately, the award came a bit too late for the Father of New Wave Odia Cinema. Mahapatra passed away just a month ago.


Binapani Mohanty:

A retired reader in Economics, Binapani Mohanty has authored more than 30 compilations of short stories, perhaps the most by an Odia, as well as a few novels. Besides, many of her short stories have been translated to other Indian languages, while she too has translated a large number of books from Hindi and English.  Mohanty had earlier received the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award for her short story anthology Patadei.


Damayanti Beshra:

A prolific Santhali author, Damayanti was conferred the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 2009 for her anthology of poetry titled Say Sehed. Apart from writing 10 books in Santhali, the 58-year-old has also five Odia books to her credit. She is also the publisher of the first Santhali women’s magazine Karam Dar.


Mitrabhanu Gountia:

After singer Jitendra Haripal, Gountia is the second person associated with Rangabati, unarguably the most recorded Odia song, to have been conferred the Padma Shri. Gountia is the lyricist of this Sambalpuri song that has been recreated in a number of other Indian and foreign languages. The retired school teacher has penned over 1,000 Sambalpuri songs and is also the recipient of Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi award.


Utsab Charan Das:

The winner of Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi award has been instrumental in keeping ‘ghoda nacha’, an ancient folk dance form, meaning ‘horse dance’ alive for nearly 50 years. Das, who is from Mayurbhanj has trained a large number of dancers, and has also innovated the dance form to suit the taste of urban viewers, without tampering the originality of the dance form.


Radhamohan and Sabarmatee:

A retired Economics professor and his daughter Sabarmatee have been conferred Padma Shri in recognition for their three-decade-long efforts to transform a barren land into a lush food forest in Nayagarh district. About 36 hectares of degraded land now boasts rare varieties of trees including 500 varieties of rice and 700 indigenous varieties of seeds.


Batakrushna Sahoo:

The progressive farmer from Sarakana village in Khurda has been playing a pivotal role in promoting pisciculture in the district since late 1980s. Sahoo was conferred the fourth highest civilian award for his contribution to animal husbandry.


Digambar Behera:

During his school days, he used to walk barefoot to attend his classes as he had no shoes. He also used to help his father in the farming activities. Hailing from Cuttack district, Behera went on to become the director of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. Padma Shri award will only encourage him to work more aggressively in eliminating tuberculosis and treatment of lung cancer, says the 67-year-old Behera.


Prashanta Kumar Pattanaik: An alumnus of Utkal University and an associate of Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, Pattnaik, who is now a professor in the University of California, has been a great advocate of economy that aims at poverty reduction programmes.


Fact file

So far 4,756 Padma awards, including 48 Bharat Ratna, have been conferred on individuals for their distinguished services since its establishment in 1954.

The number of individuals from Odisha who have received Padma awards are 85, which include 11 Padma Bhusan, three Padma Vibhusan and one Bharat Ratna

Legendary Odissi exponent Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, poet Sitakanta Mohapatra and sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra were conferred with Padma Vibhusan, while the sole Bharat Ratna was bestowed upon Varahagiri Venkat Giri, the fourth President of India who was born in Berhampur


Bijay Mandal, OP


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