Rao has published over 1,600 scientific papers till date
"I heard about it (award) when I was at the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala to board a flight to Bangalore. I spoke to the prime minister (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) and thanked him for the honour. I feel basic science is getting its due now," Rao told reporters at the city airport on arrival Saturday.
Hoping that more students would earnestly take up science research, Rao said the country's foremost nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha should also be awarded with the (Bharat Ratna) honour.
"I used to say earlier that Homi Bhabha should get this honour and also other eminent researchers," Rao said.
Expressing profound happiness for being chosen for the prestigious award, Rao said he had served the country for many decades and published over 1,600 scientific papers till date.
"I credit my family and thousands of my students for this award. I am also happy that batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar has also been conferred with the award, Rao added.
Rao's wife Indumathi, who arrived with him from Thiruvananthapuram, said her husband had always been her 'Bharat Ratna'.
"For me, he (Rao) has always been a Bharat Ratna," Indumathi told reporters.
Noting that it was easy for others like sportspersons to get an award, and that scientists rarely get such recognition though they too work very hard.
"Scientists work very hard but rarely get recognition while it is easy for others like sportspersons to get an award," she added.