Winners of Swarajya Awards 2020
Snapshot
  • Honouring stellar work by individuals in the fields of economics, politics, social work and culture.

The Swarajya Awards for the year 2020, presented in association with India Foundation and Indic Academy, have been announced.

The awards aim to recognise the stellar work being carried out by various individuals in the fields of culture, social work, politics and economics.

The winners for this year are: Bharatbala (Ustad Bismillah Khan Award for Culture), K Parasaran (Sree Narayana Guru Award for Social Work), Sarbananda Sonowal (Dr S P Mukherjee Award for Politics) and N K Singh (Dr B R Shenoy Award for Economics).

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The awards would be presented by Dr S Jaishankar, Union Minister for External Affairs and Mohammed Nasheed, Speaker, Peoples’ Majlis of Maldives, at a ceremony to be held Tent City Narmada, Gujarat.

Ustad Bismillah Khan Award for Culture – Bharatbala

Bharatbala has given India the emotive mirror to her civilisational heritage. As film director, screenwriter and producer, Bharatbala's contribution to building an inimitable version of the art of storytelling through memories, people, their lives, stories and emotions, is unparalleled.

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Art has been able to step out of its existing silos to become the narrator through his work.

Bharatbala reads India as a deep civilisation. This propels him not into a plain study, but into a sadhana of the deeper understanding of India’s philosophy and culture. He considers this philosophy universal.

He believes in sharing it with the ordinary Indian through a universal language. Bharatbala has created and shared Indian soft power with Indians and India first.

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His journey towards knowing the unknown, the unsaid and the lesser known has made him weave his way towards the adivasis, who are the real keepers of indigenous wisdom. In the process, he has become an energetic wealth creator, running and reflecting on the constant urge to dig more wealth from the crevices of communities.

Bharatbala travels to the remotest corners of the country to give India stories and stories of Indians. For nearly four decades, his short films have helped us see India in short stories that explore ritual, culture, architecture, performing arts, Hindustani and Carnatic music, pride and our inherent strengths.

In Maryan, his feature film, he puts the protagonist through a brave story of survival in a foreign land. Maryan, the rural hero from Tamil Nadu, survives owing to his inherent strengths, power and pride and returns home.

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The inspiration to chase the civilisational heritage and wisdom in images of India came to Bharatbala from his father. Born in Chennai, he has worked to overcome long distances across the length and breadth of India for one aim. It is: to make Indians rediscover and explore the glory of their own land and home.

The laborious storyteller works tirelessly to collect, curate and assimilate stories in a confluence of depictions and narration involving diverse disciplines and facets of visual and performing arts.

Traditional sports, festivals, individual efforts at the preservation of heritage, and the vibrant rural India find a window in his kaleidoscopic repertoire.

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Bharatbala's celebration of Bharat's intangible wealth in his projects Vande Mataram, Jana Gana Mana, Gurus of Peace, 200 one-minute films, and several other creative initiatives establishes him as a maestro of many facets of art. His collaboration with musician A R Rahman has given us some of the finest duets in music and film-making.

Today, India is redefining its soft power and reworking its interaction with the world through soft power. Bharatbala is focussed on his own work towards creating 1,000 short films surrounding the history and culture of India with utmost dedication and tremendous research.

He has breathed life, colour and blood into the documentation of Indic narratives and traditions. He does it in passion and love for the Indic fibre of life. It's a reflection of his own intellect and eye for detail as India's creativity-loving son.

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India's languages have found an abode in Bharatbala's expressions. He preserves human stories in the languages they are born in, spread and passed on. He is at the helm of that narrative where the most precious civilisational secrets are whispered in art in everlasting works and visual memory.

His search for people in the nooks and corners of India continues. His search for the minutest elements of 'retelling' that go on to construct a bigger story of India and Indians continues. One such story got concluded last year.

To celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Bharatbala chose to look at history with the prism of present. His film on Gandhi released last year involved living friends and associates of the Mahatma.

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Today, he is the stimulating leader who has created a 'Virtual Bharat' using art, vision, work and human stories. He has been able to touch the soul, texture, soil and sweat of Bharat through the simple instrument of retelling like no other artiste. Bharatbala is the lone flag-bearer of this cause, method and space.

Sree Narayana Guru Award for Social Work – K Parasaran

Shri K Parasaran has dedicated his life in the service of satya and dharma; the two eyes of Indian jurisprudence. Born in the lap of Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam and brought up in the precincts of Lord Parthasarathy of Tiruvellikeni, Shri Parasaran is a shining example of all the values required of a good human being.

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Never the one to shy away from his spiritual beliefs, Shri Parasaran always saw the hand of the divine piper in his life full of glorious achievements. At the same time, he mastered vast secular knowledge that formed the basis of his success as a lawyer.

Shri Parasaran is a stalwart of an age of advocacy and legal professionalism when ethical values mattered more than material success, and wisdom and scholarship mattered more than simple knowledge of facts and rules.

Though born to a great lawyer and scholar of his times, who also happened to be his guru at the bar, Shri Parasaran had to make a career from scratch through hard work, dedication and discipline. Take any branch of law and one will find important judgements in which Shri Parasaran argued.

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This success never came at the cost of his commitment to higher principles. He argued with the same dedication for a poor widow seeking maintenance from her husband’s estate or for the biggest corporate house fighting for tax benefits. He argued on behalf of the oppressed and backward classes in many cases.

Shri Parasaran put his prospects of becoming Attorney General of India in jeopardy when he refused to appear for the central government for a case in which he believed the government’s position was not correct.

In a testament to the power of his personality and the values he represented, he not only went on to become the Attorney General soon thereafter but was also bestowed with honour upon honour by successive governments headed by different political parties.

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Shri Parasaran’s photographic memory and erudition made him a rare genius. Proficient in Sanskrit and Tamil literature, he used this knowledge when relevant both inside and outside the court room.

Judges and lawyers have been enthralled for decades watching his equal felicity in quoting judicial precedents and Puranic verses from memory. He urged people to gain knowledge of languages, philosophy, arts, etc, without any expectation in return.

The statesman in Shri Parasaran never allowed him to get carried away by the mood of the day. He had sagacious foresight and patience. He remained above controversy of any kind. His concern for the judicial system and the institutions attached to it was paramount.

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As a parliamentarian, he greatly contributed to the policy discussion on the much-needed reforms in these institutions. His views in this regard and in many other matters have been sought after and treated with the greatest value by those in power.

An ordinary lawyer would count holding the office of Attorney General of India or being nominated to the upper house of Parliament or being awarded the third- and second-highest civilian honours in the country by politically-divergent governments, as crowning achievements of his life.

For Shri Parasaran, however, it is the opportunity to give back to his favourite Lord Rama by appearing for him before the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya case that gave him more satisfaction than any other achievement.

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Only a man of his spiritual learning could have so objectively argued the case as a secular title suit despite the involvement of his favourite deity in it. Only a man of his wisdom could see all parties to the litigation as ‘children of god’.

A man of such character and wisdom can only be described by the ancient Sanskrit saying: “Na bhuto na bhavishyati”

Dr S P Mukherjee Award For Politics – Sarbananda Sonowal

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It is not often that a popular politician makes an able administrator. And very often, popular politicians get heady with power and lose it all.

Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, Assam’s 14th Chief Minister, defies these perceptions very robustly. Not only has he received accolades for his good governance skills, he is also a politician, who is firmly rooted and famed for his ‘people connect’.

His stint as Union minister for two years and as Chief Minister of Assam for the last four years, has not affected his close contact with the people of the state who had lovingly bestowed on him the title of ‘Jatiya Nayak’ – Assam’s national hero.

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Shri Sonowal is inarguably one of the very few politicians who is completely accessible and enjoys a warm personal rapport with tens of thousands across Assam. He keeps a busy social calendar, attending social, cultural and religious events even in the remotest of villages, and that keeps him constantly on the move.

However, his frequent travels across the state does not come in the way of his governance, rather only aids it. Shri Sonowal knows his state and his people like very few chief ministers do. He finds time to meet everyone who comes knocking at his door and ensures that all those seeking his help and assistance are never disappointed.

Shri Sonowal’s initiation into public life happened at an early age after he joined the influential All Assam Students’ Union, which had spearheaded the historic anti-foreigners Assam agitation until the mid-1980s.

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Since then, Shri Sonowal has stood out for his sincerity, affability, readiness to undertake the most-difficult tasks, stand up for justice and fair play, courage of conviction and fearlessness. He took up cudgels against the discriminatory and unfair IMDT Act that was a major hurdle in the way of identifying illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

He successfully moved the Supreme Court to repeal the act in 2005, resulting in the grateful people of the state bestowing the ‘Jatiya Nayak’ title on him. He has shown the same zeal in launching a crusade against corruption in the state machinery, as a result of which hundreds of state government employees and officers have been booked.

His love for and commitment to Assam and the people of the state have remained a major leitmotif of his political career as an MLA, a parliamentarian, a Union minister and now, as Chief Minister of the state. This amiable, ever-smiling ‘Jatiya Nayak’ is also a nationalist to the core and a firm believer in the idea that a peaceful and prosperous Assam and North East are integral to building a prosperous India.

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Shri Sonowal has launched a number of initiatives to make Assam a pivot to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy. Under his stewardship, Assam is well on its way to regain its earlier days of glory.

Dr B R Shenoy Award For Economics – N K Singh

The Dr B R Shenoy Award is in honour of India’s bravest free-market economist, who dared to challenge Nehruvian socialism. Eminent economist N K Singh is the latest recipient of this award, and is also someone who played an instrumental role in preparing the ‘dream budget’ of 1997-98 as revenue secretary.

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The budget initiated what was the first bold taxation reform in the history of independent India.

Born in 1941, N K Singh completed his school at St Xavier’s High School, Patna, and is alumnus of the St Stephens College, Delhi. He holds a Master’s degree in economics from the Delhi School of Economics and has had the fortune of learning from leading professors such as Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati.

He comes from a family of bureaucrats and has served in several key positions throughout his career. Apart from being the Revenue Secretary, he has been the Additional Secretary Economic Affairs connected with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations Development Programme. He has also served as the Officer on Special Duty to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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As Revenue Secretary, he presided over a substantial reduction in tax rates from 15, 30 and 40 per cent to the current 10, 20 and 30 per cent. This was accompanied with a broad tax rationalisation of corporate taxes along with the simplification of the customs and excise duty structure.

This was accompanied by import tariff rationalisation and a voluntary disclosure of income scheme (VDIS) to allow voluntary disclosures of hidden income. The VDIS resulted in huge tax realisations and was the first experience in India of tax cuts having a positive impact on tax compliance and consequently on tax revenue.

He has also authored several important books such as Politics of Change, an insight into India's politics and economy. His book Not by Reason Alone comments on the past and present of the politics of change, and The New Bihar: Rekindling Governance and Development is a collection of perceptive essays on the Bihar model of development.

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He has also been a regular columnist in leading Indian newspapers and magazines including the Indian Express, Hindustan Times and Mint.

In April 2008, he became a member of the Rajya Sabha from Bihar representing the Janata Dal (United). As a parliamentarian, he has played an important role in several parliamentary committees including the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.

Before the general elections in 2014, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party due to his close association with the National Democratic Alliance for over a decade.

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He was bestowed with Japan’s prestigious ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star’ award.

He is currently the chairman of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, which is tasked with the creation of a framework for sharing revenue between central and state governments.

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