Here is a look at some of the not-so-well-known Padma awardees of 2022 from around the world.
India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has announced names of awardees of the country’s highest civilian awards on the eve of Republic Day. A total of 128 awards have been announced including four Padma Vibhushan, 17 Padma Bhushan and 107 Padma Shri Awards. Thirty-four of the awardees are women and the list also includes 10 persons from the category of Foreigners/NRI/PIO/OCI and 13 were Posthumously named.
While no foreigners were given Padma Vibhushan, four of Indian origin were awarded the Padma Bhushan. Six foreigners featured in the third category, Padma Sri.
‘Padma Vibhushan’ is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; ‘Padma Bhushan’ for distinguished service of high order and ‘Padma Shri’ for distinguished service in any field. The Padma Awards Committee, set up by the Prime Minister every year, recommends names of awardees. These recommendations are then sent to the PM and President for approval.
Satya Narayana Nadella, Sundararajan Pichai and Madhur Jaffery, all well-known Americans of Indian origin featured in the Padma Bhushan list. These names did not come as a surprise but not many may have heard of Sanjaya Rajaram, who also featured on the list.
Sanjaya Rajaram, was an Indian-born Mexican scientist who is most well-known for his research which led to the development of 480 wheat varieties that were shared with 51 countries. His research led to an increase of wheat production in the world by more than 200 million tonnes.
Rajaram came from a small farming family in India and went on to study genetics and plant breeding at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi; did his Ph.D. from the University of Sydney, and finally joined the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in 1969, working as a wheat breeder alongside Nobel Prize Laureate and scientist Norman Borlaug in Mexico. It was because of his brilliance and talent that Borlaug appointed Rajaram as head of CIMMYT’s wheat breeding program at just 29 years of age. CIMMYT is now the global leader in publicly funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems.
He was presented with the World Food Prize in 2014 and Padma Sri by the Indian Government in 2001. The Padma Bhushan this year was awarded to him posthumously because he passed away from COVID-19 in February 2021 aged 78.
Of the six awardees for Padma Sri, three are Sanskrit scholars: Rutger Kortenhorst from Ireland, Chirapat Prapandavidya from Thailand and former Ambassador of Poland to India Maria Christopher Byrski.
Byrski was the Polish ambassador to India from 1994 to 1996 but his association with India had begun long ago. It began in 1955 when he was a student of Indian Studies at the University of Warsaw. He later came to Banaras Hindu University (BHU), where his doctorate thesis was titled ‘Concept of Ancient Indian Theatre’.
His love for Sanskrit could never be questioned. As ambassador, he had his visiting card engraved in Devanagari script. In 1994, when he was invited to give the annual Parikshith Memorial lecture, in Kerala, Byrski spoke ex tempore in chaste Sanskrit for one hour, while all other Sanskrit scholars who spoke before him gave their speeches in Malayalam.
Professor Tatiana Lvovna Shaumyan from Russia has been awarded the Padma Sri for her work on India, during her long stint at the Center of Indian Studies in the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow. She is a specialist on India’s Foreign Policy, International Relations in South and Central Asia and Far East.
Professor Prokar Dasgupta, an Indian-origin doctor in UK, an awardee of this year’s Padma Sri list has done pioneering work in robotic urological surgery within the UK and internationally. In 2010 and 2018 he was named one of the top ten prostate cancer surgeons in the United Kingdom by the Daily Mail.
His main research is focussed on the immunology of prostate cancer, and he is part of the Prostate Cancer Research Centre at King’s College London. Professor Dasgupta is also credited with coming up with an innovative technique of injecting Botulinum toxin (Botox) to target bladder nerves. This method has been named after him and has helped millions of patients worldwide.
He was awarded the Fellowship of the Linnaean Society (FLS) in 2017, the Fellowship of King’s College (FKC) in 2018 and the St Peter’s medal from British Association of Urological Surgeons in 2020. He has been a Trustee and raised funds for a number of charities in the UK and The Prostate Cancer Foundation in Kolkata, India.
The most surprising name among the winners is perhaps of hotel entrepreneur Ryuko Hira from Japan who was born in Jaipur as Kamlesh Punjabi. He is now better known as Ryuko Hira, and the owner of HMI Hotel Group, which runs a chain of hotels and resorts in Japan. He is also the Chairman of The Indian Commerce and Industry Association of Japan and has been instrumental in bringing a lot of investment opportunities in India.