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Home > News > Report

Padma awards' ceremony to be get-together of old friends

January 27, 2007 12:36 IST

When President A P J Abdul Kalam presents the Padma awards for 2007 in the glittering Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan, for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh it will be like a reunion of old friends -- he hasn't met so many of his friends at one place for so long!

By and large, the philosophy guiding those who have been selected for the awards appears to have been to award secular, liberal, left-leaning individuals. Social activist Teesta Setelvad, academic Mushirul Hasan and educationist Saiyeda Hameed fall in this category.

But there are many on the list who have interacted with Manmohan Singh during his days as an academic. Economic historian and Professor of Indian History and Civilisation, Oxford, Tapan Raychaudhuri's work on the British encounter with India suggests that it had a catalytic effect: that Europe changed very little from it but it triggered a massive transformation in India.

Raychaudhuri's thesis is that this encounter cannot be viewed merely in terms of dominance and subordination. Raychaudhuri and Manmohan Singh's paths met not just at Oxford but also at the Delhi School of Economics. Raychaudhuri has been honoured with a Padma Bhushan.

Dr Raja Chelliah, who has been given a Padma Vibhushan is another old friend of Manmohan Singh. He was Singh's single most important adviser on tax reform when he became finance minister in 1991.

TN Srinivasan, Samuel C Park Jr, Professor of Economics at the Economic Growth Centre, Yale University, who has got a Padma Bhushan, has also been Singh's associate but has not hesitated to criticise governments for excessive control of India's economy - indeed he has written a whole book on the issue called Economic Policy and State Intervention.

The several issues addressed in this book relate to the concept and measurement of income, growth, population, redistribution, production relations in agriculture, and economic structures, as well as India as a nuclear power, the role of the state and the relationship between democracy and the market.

Jeffrey Sachs has been awarded a Padma Bhushan. Described as the "the world's best known economic" by Time magazine, Sachs' work is both admired and built upon. About his work, Sachs says, "Extreme poverty can be ended not in the time of our grandchildren but our time. Book and man are brilliant, passionate, optimistic and impatient," said a reviewer.

Other relationships will also be rediscovered when the awards are given. Recipient of the Padma Vibhushan V Krishnamurthy will have an occasion to slap on the back, A Sivasailam, of the Amalgamated Group and N Mahalingam of the Sakthi Group, both of whom have got the Padma Bhushan -- all three belong to Tamil Nadu and have built industrial empires.

Whether the grand old man of India's automobile industry, O Suzuki of Suzuki Motor Corporation, will be able to attend the ceremony will be interesting. More so, as Sivasailam's son in law Venu Srinivasan has been locked in a battle with Suzuki, which has been eyeing his TVS group with interest for several years.

True, the father of Public Interest Litigation in India, PN Bhagwati, will be handed a Padma Vibhushan and his brother JN Bhagwati will have to wait for his turn. But he will be in the same room as Jeffrey Sachs.

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