New Delhi, Jan 25: Superstar Rajinikanth, founder of the Reliance empire late Dhirubhai Ambani, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and media baron Ramoji Rao have been chosen for Padma Vibhushan, country's second highest civilian award, this year.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Jagmohan, former DRDO chief V K Aatre, cancer specialist and chairperson of Adyar Cancer Institute Dr V Shanta and eminent Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi dancer Yamini Krishnamurthi and classical vocalist Girija Devi and Indian-American economist Avinash Dixit have also been named for Padma Vibhushan on the occasion of this year's Republic Day celebrations.
Noted actor Anupam Kher, singer Udit Narayan, former CAG Vinod Rai, chairperson of media group Bennett, Coleman & Co. Indu Jain, sports star Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal, spiritual leaders late Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Tejomayananda and former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill are among the 19 eminent people chosen for Padma Bhushan.
Industrialist Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, Maruti Suzuki chairman R C Bhargava and eminent architect Hafeez Contractor also figure in the list of Padma Bhushan awardees. Senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, who was the prosecution counsel in the Mumbai terror attack case, actors Ajay Devgn and Priyanka Chopra get Padma Shri.
Women dominated this year's Padma awards for sports with tennis star Sania Mirza and ace shuttler Saina Nehwal getting the nod for the Padma Bhushan, while archer Deepika Kumari was chosen for the Padma Shri here today.
All three were in sublime touch last year and brought the country laurels in their respective sports. Sania enjoyed the most sensational run, clinching nine titles -- including two Grand Slams last year with Swiss great Martina Hingis.
The exceptional performance propelled her to the top of the WTA doubles rankings. The 29-year-old is currently competing in the Australian Open in Melbourne, where she has reached the women's doubles quarterfinals with Hingis. Saina has also been in spectacular touch, winning silver medals at the All England and World Badminton Championship last year besides clinching the India Open Super Series and Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold.
Deepika, on the other hand, won a silver at the Archery World Cup Final besides bronze medals at the World Cup Stage II and the Asian Team Championships. Saina, who is in the country to compete in this week's Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold Tournament, said the honour has left her surprised. Interestingly, the 25-year-old had expressed her displeasure at being ignored for the award last year.
"It is a great honour and I want to thank the Ministry for giving me the award. I am very happy with the way the last year has gone, I have been performing well. I reached World No.1 last year and now I am World No.2. I am sure this award will give me more motivation to do well further this year," Saina said.
"It came as a complete surprise to me. I had no clue. I did not expect at all. There was no news of it at all. When I think that I am just 25 and I have received this award, it makes me feel great. But it is still a long way to go."
Saina was left disappointed after the Sports Ministry decided to reject her application for the award in January last year, citing norms. The ministry had picked two-time Olympic-medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar for the honour last year. Saina was bestowed the Khel Ratna and Padma Shri in 2010 and also received the Arjuna Award in 2009.
The 21-year-old Deepika, meanwhile, had also won the team silver along with Laxmirani Majhi and Rimil Buriuly in the World Championships.
(With inputs from agencies)