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Debate Surrounds Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s Eligibility for Bharat Ratna

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After the recent conferment of the Bharat Ratna upon the late Dr M S Swaminathan, a renowned agricultural expert, a debate has been ignited in military circles regarding whether Field Marshal SHFJ ‘Sam’ Manekshaw should also be considered for the highest civilian honour in India.

Not long after the announcement, former Chief of Army Staff General V P Malik took to social media to express his belief that the accolade was well-deserved. He questioned the exclusion of FM Manekshaw, highlighting his impact on the nation and expertise in his field.

The discussion revealed mixed opinions, with some retired Indian Army officers supporting the idea and questioning why a deserving soldier like Manekshaw should be overlooked. On the other hand, some insisted that the rank of Field Marshal itself is a unique recognition, with only two individuals holding that title since Independence.

While military officers have received high civil honours like the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri in the past, the practice has declined in recent decades.

Looking back on the history of military honours, General J N Chaudhuri and Air Marshal Arjan Singh were among the earliest military officers to receive the Padma Vibhushan in 1965, following the India-Pakistan war.

General P P Kumaramangalam and Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh were both posthumously awarded the same honour, recognizing their significant contributions to the nation. Similarly, Air Chief Marshal P C Lal, Admiral S M Nanda, and General A S Vaidya were also recipients of the Padma Vibhushan.

Rachel Adams

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