Padma Shri’s over the Years

Padma Shri (or Padmashree) is the fourth highest civilian award given by the Indian government after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan, and the Padma Bhushan.

The awards are given for excellence in all fields of activities – disciplines such as art, literature and education, sports, medicine, social work, science and engineering, public affairs, civil service and trade and industry.

While there is no reason to believe that all fields should be equally represented, some fields have seen their share awards represented rather disproportionately than what you would expect.Here is a quick graphic of all PadmaShri’s grouped by their categories.

Number of Padma Shri Awards

Clearly Arts has claimed more of these awards than any other category. But that wasn’t the case always, though. Arts only became the dominant category after 1984. It was rather a mixed bag until then.

PadmaShri Awards over the years by category

But after 1984, Arts has been the dominant category in every year after that.

PadmaShri Awards over the years(for selected categories)

Of course, the  story here is the secular rise in the overall number of awards over the years. And here is why those sharp peaks are intriguing

Number of Padmashri awardees over the years

Make it what you will of the pattern – almost all peaks occur in the election years.

Here is what I think is happening- purely speculative of course.

Recommendations for these awards are solicited(from the states) around August and the winners declared before/on the republic day which is in January and federal elections happen in May/June(of the election year). So given the timing, I suppose it’s the ruling party in center acquiescing to the demands of the ruling parties in the states  either for their support in the upcoming elections or simply repaying for any favors they might have done in the past before cycle end of their rule.

Either way, looking at the states from which these awardees came from and the specific categories (arts-cinema vs arts-dance etc.) for which they were awarded might provide more clues to what is happening.An exercise for some other time.