Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said his government had transformed the process for selecting Padma award winners and common people were now being honoured because the emphasis was no longer on the name of a nominee, but on the work done.
In the year's first 'Mann ki Baat' address, Modi said the awards are being bestowed on people 'who do not live in big cities and are not visible in newspapers and TV'.
"Making the (nomination) process online has led to transparency. The selection process for these awards has undergone a transformation," he said.
People were being honoured without a recommendation, he stressed in his monthly radio programme.
"If you look at these winners, you will feel proud that such kind of people live in society and will also naturally feel proud that they are getting this recognition without any 'sifarish' (recommendation)," he said.
"Now the identity of the awardee is not the deciding factor of the award, rather the importance of his work is increasing," he said.
The prime minister also highlighted the works of some of this year's winners, whose names were announced on the eve of Republic Day, and said they should be invited to schools and colleges so that they could share their experiences and inspire others.
He mentioned that this year's Padma awardees include Lakshmikutty, a tribal woman from Kerala who prepares herbal medicines, and Arvind Gupta, an Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur alumnus who inspired generations of students to learn science from trash.
Society should also go beyond these awards and make efforts to recognise people working selflessly, he said.
Modi began his address by noting that for the first time heads of 10 countries were present as guests during the Republic Day parade in the national capital on January 26.
Lauding woman power and highlighting a letter posted on his app by a citizen, he pointed out that astronaut Kalpana Chawla's death anniversary falls on February 1 and her life had inspired lakhs of young people.
She gave the message that there is no limit to woman power, he said, adding that women in India were moving forward in every field and making the country proud.
Modi said women's achievements and place in society in ancient India had surprised the world and quoted a 'shloka' which said one daughter was equal to 10 sons.
Quoting the letter, which also mentioned Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's sortie in fighter aircraft Sukhoi 30, he said women were not only moving ahead in every field but leading there as well.
In this context, the prime minister also referred to President Ram Nath Kovind's initiative to meet a group of 'extraordinary' women, who were all path-breakers, and said women had broken through orthodoxy to achieve 'extraordinary success'.
Kovind had recently met India's first woman merchant navy captain, the first woman passenger train driver and fire fighter, among others, he said, calling them the 'first ladies' in their respective fields.
A book on these woman achievers was available on his website, he said.
"Women are playing a significant role in the positive changes happening in the country," he said, and referred to the performance of an all-woman BSF biker contingent at the Republic Day parade, which, he said, 'surprised' guests from India and abroad.
Modi highlighted woman e-rickshaw drivers working in a Naxalite-hit district of Chhattisgarh, saying they were helping transform the troubled region.
He also referred to the Matunga Railway Station in Mumbai which had an all-woman staff.
In the radio broadcast, the prime minister spoke about the strength of the Indian civilisation and praised its qualities of flexibility, self-correction and ability for transformation.
"Our society has always made efforts to get rid of its ills," he said.
The prime minister referred to the world's longest human chain of 13,000km formed in Bihar against dowry and child marriage and said it was imperative that society was rid of such ills.
Modi also recalled Mahatma Gandhi, whose death anniversary is on January 30, and said his path of peace and non-violence was applicable to all, just as his ideals were as relevant as ever.
"What can be a bigger tribute than taking a vow that we shall tread the path of Bapu and walk, as far as possible," he said.
Moving on to health, Modi said medicines at the government's 'Jan Aushadhi Centres' were 50-90 per cent cheaper than market rates, and said these were making healthcare more affordable.
Noting the participation of people of Indian origin who were elected representatives in various countries at an event in New Delhi to mark 'Pravasi Bharatiya Divas', he said people of Indian origin served their adopted countries and at the same time maintained a strong bond with India.
The European Union, he said, has sent him a calendar in which contributions by Indians living in different parts of Europe in various fields of life had been highlighted.
Photograph: PTI Photo