A parliamentary committee has proposed that recipients of government awards should provide their written consent and sign an undertaking before being bestowed with the honor. The aim is to discourage awardees from returning their awards at a later date for "political reasons," a gesture commonly known as 'award-wapsi.'
The report, titled 'Functioning of National Akademis and Other Cultural Institutions,' was tabled in Parliament on Monday (24 July) by the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture, led by YSRCP's Vijay Sai Reddy.
The committee argued that the Sahitya Academy and other institutions are apolitical bodies and should not entertain politicism. The report cited instances where awardees returned their awards as a form of protest on issues outside the cultural realms, impacting the prestige and reputation of the awards and other awardees.
To address this, the committee recommended that shortlisted candidates should provide prior concurrence and undertake that they will not dishonor the award in the future. Awards may not be given without such an undertaking, and if an award is returned, the awardee should not be considered for future awards.
However, the recommendation faced opposition within the committee. Some members disagreed with the proposal, arguing that returning awards is a form of protest and falls under the citizens' right to freedom of speech and expression. They suggested that the government should address the actual issues behind such protests.
Opposition MPs also objected to the committee's recommendations, stating that it takes away the fundamental right to expression and protest. They emphasized that award recipients have the right to decide whether they want to accept the award or not.
As of now, the Padma Awards require consent from the proposed awardees before announcement, and many decline the honor after the list is made public.
Notably, 33 recipients, including Uday Prakash, Nayantara Sehgal, and Ashok Vajapyee, made headlines by returning their awards after the 2015 Kalburgi murder case.
Since then, this act has gained popularity as a powerful form of protest. A recent example of this was when prominent wrestlers threatened to throw their medals into the Ganga during their protest against WFI president Brij Bhushan Singh, who is facing sexual harassment allegations.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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