January 25, 2001


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Lata, Bismillah Khan get Bharat Ratnas

Josy Joseph in New Delhi

Melody queen Lata Mangeshkar, who enthralled people for over five decades with her songs, and shehnai wizard Ustad Bismillah Khan were awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian honour.

Lata, who made her debut as a playback singer when 17 and has sung over 30,000 songs, was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke award for her contribution to film and music.

Her first song in Aap Ki Seva Me went almost unnoticed in 1947, but within two years, her songs were on everyone's lips, with soulful numbers in Andaaz, Barsaat and Mahal.

Lata continues to sing at 70 with her voice still retaining its golden hues.

Eightyfour-year-old Khan, who has already been awarded the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, learnt shehnai under Ali Bux and Ahmed Hussain of Benaras and gave his first public performance when 14 at an all-India music conference in Allahabad in 1930 and has not looked back since then.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique announced the awards on the eve of Republic Day.

Khan visited the US in 1967, East Asia in 1970, South America in 1973 and France in 1974, besides attending the World Music Conference in Berlin in 1977 and India Festival in 1986.

He is a recipient of innumerable other awards, like the Tanzen award, the Nepal Academy award, the Soviet Land Nehru award and Kala Saraswati award.

Deeply in love with India, Khan once politely turned down the offer of an American connoisseur to stay in the US, saying, "Build me my ghats, the river, the life as I know it, in the backyard and may be I will stay back".

The Padma Vibhushan went to Sarod wizard Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, santoor player Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Zubin Mehta, Germany-based western musician of Indian origin, film-maker Rishikesh Mukherjee, writer- economist John K Galbraith, former United States Ambassador to India and six others.

The Padma Bhushan was awarded to superstar Amitabh Bachchan, film-maker B R Chopra, composer and lyricist Bhupen Hazarika, evergreen hero Dev Anand, renowned orthopaedic surgeon Chittaranjan S Ranawat, who performed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's knee replacement operation last year, violinist Lalgudi G Jayaraman, world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand, Kuchipudi dancer Yamini Krishnamuri, veteran actor Pran, industrialist Rahul Bajaj and 22 others.

The other Padma Vibhushan awardees are Benjamin Arthur Gilman, Public Affairs, USA, Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, Science and Engineering (Statistics), USA, Chakravarthi Vijayaraghava Narasimhan, Civil Service, Chennai, Hosei Norota, Public Affairs, Japan, Kotta Satchidananda Murty, Literature and Education, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, and Prof Man Mohan Sharma, Science and Engineering (Chemical Engineering), Bombay.

The Padma Shri went to 66 other eminent persons.

The President of India has also awarded gallantry and distinguished service awards 403 armed forces personnel on the eve of Republic Day.

Noticeably, there are no nominees for Param Vir Chakra, the country's highest gallantry award, or its peacetime equivalent, the Ashok Chakra.

The list of decorations and awards include 25 Param Vishisht Seva Medals, four Kirti Chakras, one Bar-to-Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, 38 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals, 22 Shaurya Chakras, seven Yuddh Seva Medals, two Bar-to-Sena Medal (gallantry), 111 Sena Medals, one Bar-to-Nao Sena Medal (gallantry), three Nao Sena Medals (gallantary), five Vayu Sena Medal (gallantry), one Bar-to-Sena Medal (devotion to duty), 36 Sena Medals (devotion to duty), eight Nau Sena Medals (devotion to duty),14 Vayu Sena Medals (devotion to duty), two Bar-to-Vishisht Seva Medal and 123 Vishisht Seva Medals.

In addition, 51 Mention-in-Dispatches have also been announced.

Among the winners of PVSMs are Lt Generals Ashok Kumar Puri, Madan Pal Singh Bhandari, Avtar Singh, C R Sampath Kumar, R S Kadyan, B S Malik, Vijay Lall, A S Rao, M A Gurbaxani, Shankar Prasad and S S Mehta.

Also among those who have been awarded the PVSM are the Srinagar-based 15 Corps' commander, Lt Gen J R Mukherjee.

Three Vice Admirals -- Harinder Singh, Rajeshwar Nath and John Colin De Silva -- have also been awarded the PVSM.

Five Air Force officials have been awarded PVSMs. They are Air Marshals K S Bindra, P S Pingale, T J Master and Air Vice Marshals S S Chauhan and G K Kwatra.

Four officers -- Major Pradeep T Tathawade, Captain R Subramanian, Lt Ravinder Chhikara and Lt M N Atmaram -- have been awarded the Kirti Chakra. All the four have been given the award posthumously.

Major General Gambir Singh Negi AVSM, VSM of the Infantry has been awarded Bar-to-Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.

Ati Vishisht Seval Medals have been awarded to 38 defence personnel. Among them are the Director General of Military Intelligence, Lt Gen O S Lohchab and Lt Generals DS Chauhan and Brij Mohan Kapur.

The Shaurya Chakra has been awarded to 22 young officers and soldiers. Among the recipients is Major J M George of 8 Assam Rifle, Major D S Mankoti, Subedars Madan Lal, Rajen Basumatary, DR Thakur and others.

The Yuddh Seval Medal has been awarded to seven people, including four Brigadiers and two Majors from the Army and a Group Captain, B S Siwach, an Air Force pilot.

Bar-to-Sena Medal (gallantry) has been awarded to two Majors - K S Mehra and Kirit Nair.

The Sena Medal (gallantry) has been awarded to 111 defence personnel from all the services.

One Bar-to-Nau Sena Medal (gallantry) has been awarded to Lt Commander Tilak Raj Thakur, a navy officer, while three Nau Sena Medals (gallantry) have also been awarded.

The Vayu Sena Medal (gallantry) has been awarded to five air force officers including Wing Commanders Rakesh Kumar Negi and Arun Tillu Samtani.

Brigadier Raj Kumar Karwal of Infantry has been selected for Bar-to-Sena Medal (devotion to duty).

The Sena Medal (devotion to duty) has been awarded to 36 defence personnel.

The Nau Sena medal (devotion to duty) has been awarded to eight navy personnel, while the Vayu Sena Medal (devotion to duty) has been awarded to 14 Air Force personnel.

Two Brigadiers have been given Bar-to-Vishisht Seval Medal. The Vishisht Seval Medal has been awarded to 123 personnel.

Of the 51 Mention In Dispatches there are soldiers and officers from various defence operations, such as Kargil and Kashmir and action in the north-east.

With inputs from PTI

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