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CNN-IBN Awards: RK Laxman lifetime awardee, E Sreedharan Indian of the Year

MUMBAI: Surprising everyone present, the CNN IBN Lifetime Achievement Award went to "Common Man" RK Laxman, the legendary cartoonist of "You Said It!" fame.

Laxman broke down while receiving the award from former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, and could not speak, partly due to a bad throat, but mostly because he became extremely emotional.

The award was preceded by a minute's silence in honour of Mahatma Gandhi.

By open vote, the Indian of the Year award went to E Sreedharan, the man who masterminded Delhi Metro and has been recognised around the world, including France where he was honoured with the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian award of the country.

Sreedharan, who is the Chairman of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, was also awarded the Indian of the Year in the Public Service category for setting a rare work ethic and transforming the face of transportation by effective time-bound execution of the Metro Rail project.

In his speech, he mentioned that the Delhi Metro was looking to span 400 kms in the NCR by 2021.

Members of the public present, including sportspersons and politicians cutting across affiliations, voted for Sreedharan.

The Indian of the Year in Politics went to Union Minister of Finance P Chidambaram for engineering a spectacular growth rate and being an astute economic manager despite coalition pressures.

Chidambaram joked that if there were any prize for a sinner, it would go to a politician, but added on a more serious note that people come to politics because they want to change society and the country for the better, emphatically declaring, "I am proud to be a politician."

Except for Laxman, the other awardees received their trophies from Vice President Hamid Ansari, who was the chief guest, with Kalam being the guest of honour.

But perhaps even more surprising than the Laxman award was the one given to State Bank of India's OP Bhatt in the Business Category.

Bhatt's citation said he got the award for his remarkable achievements in the ascent of the State Bank of India.

He was responsible for showing how a public sector behemoth could take on the private players and emerge as a force in the fiercely competitive banking sector.

Bhatt went into an emotional acceptance speech and said he was surprised as it is rare for a public sector enterprise to be recognised at such a magnitude.

Dedicating the award to "Team SBI," he further went on to say that this award would make the Team SBI strive to make the bank one of the top 10 in the world.

For the Entertainment category, the honours went to Shimit Amin and Jaideep Sahni for delivering the year's Best Idea Film Chak De India and demonstrating how a simple idea can make a runaway commercial success.

Earlier, speaking on the sidelines, Rajdeep Sardesai told indiantelevision.com that this clearly shows that the CNN-IBN awards were not about star value, as Shah Rukh Khan was one of the nominees in the category, but the prize went to backroom geniuses.

On receiving the award, Sahni mentioned the plight of the Indian women's hockey team and pleaded with the government to take steps to improve the state of the game.

The recipient in the Sports category was not at all a surprise. For his achievements in chess, Vishwanathan Anand took the award.

The citation read that the award was presented to him for being one of the rare Indians to be the undisputed world champion in a sport and making chess a popular sport in India.

Anand's parents received the award, and his father mentioned that the one person responsible for this was Anand's mother, who always encouraged him.

Global Indian of the year was Arun Sarin of Vodafone for piloting more than US$ 11 billion FDI in India, one of the largest ever.

An IIT-ian from IIT-Kharagpur, he is one of those small-town people to have made an impact globally. In his speech, he mentioned that if a small-town boy like him can make it this big, the scope for rise in India today was endless.

Inaugurating the ceremony, Raghav Bahl, the TV 18 group patriarch, spoke of the fact that this was an honour for the group which has stuck to responsible and credible journalism.

Bahl said that giving an award to people who have been reported in the channels, often unsparingly, "changed the terms of engagement" and made it that much tougher on deciding between the various nominees, all top rung individuals in their own fields.

To underline the tough task that the jury had in hand, jury chairman and eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee said that he now realises how difficult it is to decide, and appreciated the judiciary in general because of the nature of job and added that they are often criticised despite their best efforts.

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