15 top Indian award winners
India announced its top civilian awards on the eve of Republic Day, January 25, 2022. Image Credit: Vijith Pullikal/Gulf News

An honour worth every bit of it. Here are some of India’s top civilian award winners in 2022.

Top Indian awards
Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India) and Padma Awards are India’s highest civilian honours usually announced on the eve of India’s Republic Day. Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian honour in the country, followed by Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri in that order. They were instituted in 1954.

Sosamma Iype, 82, former professor and animal breeding expert

Sosamma Iype played a pivotal role in reviving Vechur cows, an indigenous breed in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A former professor of animal breeding and genetics, she faced many obstacles in her efforts to save the breed from extinction. Iype was also involved in the rehabilitation and conservation of other indigenous breeds such as Kasargod and Cheruvally cattle and Attappady goats.

Sosamma Iype
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Sundar Pichai, 49, Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and its subsidiary Google

Sundar Pichai, the Indian-born American executive and CEO of both Google and its holding company Alphabet, hails from a middle-income family in Chennai, the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. At an early age, Pichai displayed an interest in technology and an extraordinary memory. After earning a degree in metallurgy and a silver medal at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, he was awarded a scholarship to study at Stanford University. He earned an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Pichai joined Google in 2004 as the head of product management and development. The growth from then has been phenomenal.

Sundar Pichai
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Sonu Nigam, 48, influential playback singer

Sonu Nigam is an influential playback singer in Bollywood. Hailing from Faridabad, Haryana, he has sung over 5,000 songs in several languages, and his singing career dates back to the 1990s. Nigam, 48, has won numerous awards, including the National Award for the Best Male Playback Singer in 2003, and was twice named the number one artist on the Billboard Uncharted charts in the United States in 2013.

Sonu Nigam
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Satya Nadella, 54, CEO of Microsoft

Satya Nadella grew up in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad and studied electrical engineering at Mangalore University before moving to the United States. He completed master’s degree in computer science at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and went to work at Sun Microsystems. In 1992, he joined Microsoft. While working full-time at Microsoft, Nadella also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. Nadella rose through the ranks of Microsoft management and became the CEO of Microsoft.

Satya Nadella,
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Krishna Ella, 66, and Suchitra Ella, 58, vaccine makers

Bharat Biotech Chairman Krishna Ella and Co-founder Suchitra Ella shot to prominence with Covaxin, India's indigenous COVID-19 vaccine. The company owns 145 patents and has delivered over 4 billion vaccine doses globally.

Suchitra Ella (Trade) Padma Bhushan, Telengana

In 1996, Ella and his wife Suchitra launched Bharat Biotech at Genome Valley in Hyderabad to produce an indigenous Hepatitis B vaccine. The company diversified its portfolio with vaccines for rabies, polio, Japanese encephalitis and H1N1 influenza. Bharat Biotech has grown to become a leading vaccine-maker, with more than 15 vaccines in the market.

Krishna Ella and Suchitra Ella
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K V Rabiya, 56, social worker

Kariveppil Rabiya is a literacy activist and social worker in Vellilakkad near Tirurangadi in Kerala's Malappuram district. A paraplegic, the 56-year-old launched her pursuits from a wheelchair. She was involved in a literacy project, palliative care, rehabilitation of the physically challenged, resolution of family conflicts and neighbourhood groups for women empowerment. A cancer survivor, Rabiya had won several awards and published books, including an autobiography, 'Swapnangalkku Chirakukalundu' (Dreams Have Wings).

K V Rabiya
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Cyrus Poonawalla, 80, Chairman and Managing Director of Cyrus Poonawalla Group

Cyrus Poonawalla, one of the richest businessmen from Pune, India, is the chairman of the Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer. The Pune-based company had revenue of 72 billion rupees ($970 million) in the year ended March 31, 2021. The billionaire's other assets include stud farms and properties in Mumbai and Pune.

The company he founded when he was 25 years old has brought him worldwide recognition and the nickname: 'Vaccine King of India'.

Cyrus Poonawalla
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Sankaranarayana Menon, 93, martial arts expert

Sankaranarayana Menon, also known as Unni Gurukkal, has been honoured for popularising Kalaripayattu, a martial arts form in Kerala. At 93, he's the patriarch of the Mudavangattil family, which led the army of the king of Vettathu Nadu in Malabar. The family established the first Vallabhatta Kalari in Chavakkad in 1957 to provide training in Kalaripayattu. Now they run over 30 Vallabhatta Kalaris across the world.

Sankaranarayana Menon
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Natarajan Chandrasekaran, 58, chairman of Tata Sons

Natarajan Chandrasekaran was born in a village in Tamil Nadu and as he grew up dabbled with the idea of taking up farming, but his passion for computers finally landed him in the Indian conglomerate Tata group. Chandrasekaran eventually rose to the helm of Tata Sons after the abrupt and messy exit of Cyrus Mistry. The market capitalisation of Tata Group companies has more than doubled since Chandrasekaran, fondly referred to as Chandra, took charge in 2017.

Natarajan Chandrasekaran
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Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 77, former West Bengal chief minister

Former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, handpicked by veteran communist party leader Jyoti Basu as his successor, will most probably be remembered as the person who lost to Mamata Banerjee. A revolutionary by nature, Bhattacharya joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1966 and steadily rose to political heights, until in his second term as chief minister his industrialisation policy backfired completely and ended CPM’s 34-year reign in the state. True to his nature, Bhattacharjee refused to accept the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India, stating that nobody informed him before conferring the award.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
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Dr Prabha Atre, 91, classical vocalist

Born in 1932 in Pune, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, Dr Prabha Atre is an eminent classical vocalist in the Hindustani tradition of Indian music. A hugely creative singer, she is an exponent of the Kirana Gharana (style). She started learning music from a very young age and has had renowned singers Hirabai Badoderkar and Sureshbabu Mane as her teachers. Prabha Atre holds two bachelor degrees, one in science and the other in law, besides a doctorate in music. An author with 11 books to her credit, Atre was awarded the Padma Shri in 1990 and Padma Bhushan in 2002.

Dr Prabha Atre
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General Bipin Rawat, (1958-2021) India's first Chief of Defence Staff

India's first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), late General Bipin Rawat, was honoured with the second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, on the occasion of the country’s 73rd Republic Day.

He was India's longest-serving four-star General. The 63-year old Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 12 armed personnel were killed in a chopper crash in Tamil Nadu on December 8, 2021.

General Rawat came from a military family with his father having served in the Indian Armed Forces. He joined the Army as a Second Lieutenant in 1978 and had four decades of service behind him, having commanded forces in Jammu and Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China. He was credited with curbing insurgency along India’s north-eastern frontier and supervised a cross-border counter-insurgency operation into neighbouring Myanmar.

General Bipin Rawat
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Kalyan Singh (1932-2021), former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh

Kalyan Singh (Public Affairs) Padma Vibhushan (Posthumous), Uttar Pradesh

Kalyan Singh was a politician from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, belonging to Bharatiya Janata Party. He had served two terms as the chief minister of the state, a crucial period in the emergence of BJP on the national stage. Kalyan Singh was born in Aligarh district in Uttar Pradesh, in 1932. He first became a member of the UP legislative assembly in 1967 and continued to hold the Atrauli seat for the next 9 elections. He died on 21 August 2021 in Lucknow.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, 72, former Union Minister

Congress leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is also a former Union Minister and till recently, was the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian Parliament.

Hailing from Jammu & Kashmir, he started his political career as the Secretary for the Block Congress Committee in his hometown Bhalessa in 1973. After two years, he was appointed the President of the Jammu and Kashmir Youth Congress.

In 1980, he was appointed President of the Youth Congress - a coveted post at that time - and was elected to the Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) from Maharashtra in 1980. He was appointed a junior Minister for Law, Justice and Company Affairs Ministry in 1982.

Parliamentary Affairs and Civil Aviation Minister during the P V Narasimha Rao government, he was Urban Development Minister (2004-05) in the first UPA government, J&K Chief Minister from 2005 to 2008, and then Union Health Minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s second term.

Ghulam Nabi Azad
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Victor Banerjee, 75, well-known Indian actor

One of the well-known actors outside of India, Victor Banerjee was honoured with the Padma Bhushan for his work spanning almost five decades. He has won a National Award for his performance in Satyajit Ray's Ghare Baire.

He is the only Indian film personality to have won the National Film Award in three categories -- the other two as Cinematographer, for his documentary 'Where No Journeys End', and as Director, for his documentary 'The Splendour of Garhwal and Roopkund'.

In 1984, Banerjee portrayed Dr Aziz Ahmed in David Lean's 'A Passage to India', which brought him to the attention of western audiences.

There have also been forays into politics. Banerjee unsuccessfully contested the 1991 Lok Sabha election in Calcutta North West on the BJP ticket. He has worked in English, Hindi, Bengali and Assamese language films, and is associated with eminent directors such as David Lean, James Ivory, Roman Polanski and Ronald Neame.

Victor Banerjee
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