Writer Gita Mehta refuses to accept Padma Shri

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s sister Gita Mehta, who was conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri Award for Literature and Education yesterday, has declined to receive the award. The writer said she was grateful to the Government of India for choosing her, but politely refused to accept it stating that the timing of the award might be interpreted wrongly.

“I am deeply honoured that the Government of India should think me worthy of a Padma Shri but with great regret I feel I must decline as there is a general election looming and the timing of the award might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the Government and myself, which I would much regret,” Mehta said during a press meet.

The fourth highest civilian award has also been conferred on D Prakash Rao, popular as the ‘chai wala’ of Cuttack. Apart from Rao, two others from Odisha—Daitari Nayak and tribal agricultural activist Kamala Pujari have been chosen for the prestigious award.

Speaking to mediapersons, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik congratulated all the Odias for being given the Padma Awards, but did not comment anything on being asked about his sister Geeta Mehta.

However, Gita’s decision has sparked off a political storm in Odisha.

Senior BJP leader Prithviraj Harichandan stated the move as a disrespect to the nation. “Even though it’s her personal decision, I think declining the award is disrespect to the nation. If writer Gita Mehta is of the opinion that it will affect the political career of her brother (CM Naveen Patnaik), it’s not justified,” Harichandan said.

On the other hand, Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati has termed the nomination of Gita Mehta as a nexus between the BJP and the BJD. “Padma Shri for writer Gita Mehta is an attempt of BJP to please Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and shows there is a secret nexus between the BJP and the BJD. Gita Mehta refused the award only to make her brother (Naveen) happy.”

Former Congress Nabarangpur MP Pradeep Majhi said, “Mehta considers her brother’s (CM Naveen) political career as more important than Padma Shri. Another reason behind her refusal to accept the award could be to protect the BJD-BJP secret nexus from coming to limelight because it might hamper their poll prospects.”

Meanwhile, BJD Spokesperson Pratap Deb has urged the media not to drag her into politics. “It’s her personal decision. Just because she happens to be the sister of CM Naveen Patnaik, she should not be dragged into politics.”

However, political pundits have said that Mehta could have refused to accept the award due to pressure from Naveen Patnaik.

“The CM does not want to get exposed over the BJD-BJP ties with elections just around the corner, so he might have asked Gita Mehta to take such decision,” said senior journalist Prasanna Mohanty.

Rao runs a tea stall and is known for working tirelessly towards the development of slum children. He runs a primary school called ‘Asha O Aswasana’ for the underprivileged slum children in Cuttack city.

Daitari Naik of Keonjhar has been selected for his social work. He was responsible for single-handedly carving out a 3-km-long canal from a mountain stream to water his agricultural fields.

Meanwhile, Kamala Pujari, has been admitted to the Jeypore hospital following an illness. Doctors at the hospital informed that her family members rushed her to the hospital yesterday after she developed a high blood pressure.