New Delhi: The decision to award Bharat Ratna to former prime ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Charan Singh and green revolution pioneer M S Swaminathan has taken the number of recipients of the country's highest civilian award to 53, five of them within 2024, maximum in a year so far.
Till now, the maximum Bharat Ratna's were awarded in 1999 when four recipients were given the coveted award.
Former prime ministers P V Narasimha Rao, whose liberalisation policies revolutionised the economy, and Charan Singh, a champion of farmers' cause, and green revolution pioneer M S Swaminathan will be conferred Bharat Ratna, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday.
Singh, a Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh, was one of the pioneers of the anti-Congress politics at a time when the Congress was the hegemonic political force.
Rao, a Telugu, is widely recognised for ushering in economic reforms.
Renowned Indian agricultural scientist Swaminathan was instrumental in developing high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice, which significantly increased food grain production across India during the 1960s and 1970s. He is credited with helping India achieve self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times and made outstanding efforts towards modernising Indian agriculture.
The last Bharat Ratna award was conferred upon Pranab Mukherjee in 2019 and was posthumously awarded to Bhupendra Kumar Hazarika and Nanaji Deshmukh. The award was not given to anyone between 2020 and 2023.
The Government of India had instituted two civilian awards - Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan - in 1954. The latter had three classes namely Pahela Varg, Dusra Varg and Tisra Varg. These were subsequently renamed as Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri through a presidential notification on January 8, 1955.
The Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the country. It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour. It is treated on a different footing from Padma awards.
The recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the prime minister to the president. No formal recommendations for Bharat Ratna are necessary.
It was given to three persons in a year on several occasions, including in 2019, 1997, 1992, 1991, 1955 and 1954.
On several occasions it was given to two persons including in 2015, 2014, 2001, 1998, 1990, 1963 and 1961, while there have also been years when the award was not conferred on anyone.
In the first year, the coveted award was conferred upon C Rajagopalachari, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman.
Those conferred with this award in the past include Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Zakir Hussain, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Abul Kalam Azad, Indira Gandhi, K Kamraj, Mother Teresa, Vinoba Bhave, M G Ramachandran, B R Ambedkar, Nelson Mandela, Rajiv Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Morarji Desai, Satyajit Ray, A P J Abdul Kalam, Jayaprakash Narayan, Amartya Sen, Sachin Tendulkar, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya.
The other recipients are Bhagwan Das, M Visvesvaraya, Govind Ballabh Pant, Dhondo Keshav Karve, Bidhan Chandra Roy, Purshottam Das Tandon, Pandurang Vaman Kane, Varahgiri Venkata Giri, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Jahangir Ratanji Dadabhai Tata, Gulzarilal Nanda, Bismillah Khan, M Subbulakshmi, Gopinath Bordoloi, Pandit Ravi Shankar, C N R Rao, Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi, Lata Mangeshkar, Chidambaram Subramaniam and Aruna Asaf Ali.
On conferment of the award, the recipient receives a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion. The award does not carry any monetary grant.