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Maharashtra Bhushan award for Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar has been honoured with the Maharashtra Bhushan Award. But this year's award made more news because it was refused by Marathi litterateur Kavishreshtra V V Shirwadkar, aka Kusumagraj.

The state government had decided Kusumagraj would be the one to get it. But the writer raised objections about the award always being conferred upon a literary personality. Why wasn't someone from music or science not selected for the award, he had asked.

Efforts were made to get Kusumagraj to change his mind though Chief Minister Manohar Joshi maintains that no name other than Lata Mangeshkar cropped up. At least one committee member suggested giving the award to astrophysicist Dr Jayant Narlikar.

Joshi is chairman of the Maharashtra Bhushan selection committee which includes personalities like Pune vice-chancellor Dr Vasant Govarikar, singer Shobha Gurtu, litterateur Vasant Kanetkar, cricketer Eknath Solkar and newscaster Pradeep Bhide.

After persistent efforts, Cultural Affairs Minister Pramod Navalkar got Kusumagraj on the phone in Nashik The writer does not have a phone at his home though one is always available at the nearby Kusumagraj Pratishthan.

Kusumagraj told Navalkar that the award was given to writer P L Deshpande last year and asked the minister why the selection committee didn't pick somebody from outside the literary world.

The award is intended to honour Maharashtrian achievers in literature, music, science and sport. Last year, Bal Thackeray had been picked for the award, but refused to accept it. Thereafter, P L Deshpande's name was announced for the Rs 500,000 award. During the presentation ceremony, Deshpande targetted the state government with his Thokshahi ( dictatorial rule) speech, creating a furore.

Lata Mangeshkar, though, appeared unaffected by the controversy and said she was extremely happy to have the award conferred on her.

Compiled by Prasanna Zore from the Marathi media

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