Speaking to Hindustan Times, Mehta said she learned of her nomination only through the media and that her brother Odisha CM was on her mind when she declined it.
Author Gita Mehta, who is Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s sister, on Saturday declined to accept the Padma Shri award, saying its timing could be “misconstrued” in an election year. Speaking to Hindustan Times, Mehta said she learned of her nomination only through the media and that her brother Odisha CM was on her mind when she declined it.
Your name was announced as a Padma Shri awardee on the occasion of Republic Day 2019 but you declined the award. Did the awards committee not check with you or inform you ahead, that they wanted to confer it on you?
As I am currently in a hospital, I was not able to be contacted. I was not aware that my name was under consideration until my husband informed me that the press had already published my name, while the external affairs ministry was trying to get in touch with me.
Did you specifically have your brother, CM Naveen Patnaik of Odisha, in mind, and the fact that he will face assembly polls simultaneous to the Lok Sabha elections and be a tough contender for the BJP when you refused the award?
I was, of course, thinking of my brother, not wishing to cause him any embarrassment at a sensitive time – or even face accusations that nepotism might have been brought to bear to get me the award, so with great regret I declined. It is unfortunate that I was not able to do so before my name was published, as I do not wish to seem ungrateful for the honour the Government of India wished to bestow on me.
What do you think of India’s national awards on the whole?
National awards are always open to subjective reactions, eg why Ravi Shankar, but not Vilayat Khan for the Bharat Ratna?
Do you think writers, litterateurs and journalists should accept national awards at all?
I absolutely think writers and artists should receive awards, reminding the world of the importance of culture.
The press note issued by the committee calls you a ‘foreigner’. Notwithstanding your lineage and the fact that India is always present in your writing, are you one?
I am an Indian citizen and carry no other passport or nationality.