Republic Day 2020: Unsung heroes in Padma Shri list

Republic Day 2020: Unsung heroes in Padma Shri award list

(left to right) Mohammed Sharif, Jagdish Lal Ahuja, Sathyanarayan Mundayoor and Usha Chaumar.

A 72-year-old woman known as the Encyclopedia of Forest and an illiterate fruit vendor from Karnataka, bicycle mechanic who performs the last rites of unclaimed bodies for past 25 years in Uttar Pradesh, a former manual scavenger from Rajasthan and a wheel-chair bound activist from Jammu and Kashmir are among 21 'unsung heroes' who were chosen for Padma Shri award.

Known as the 'Encyclopedia of Forest' due to her vast knowledge of diverse species of plants and herbs, she has nurtured thousands of trees over the past 60 years.

An illiterate Halakki tribal woman known for possessing endless knowledge of plants and herbs, Tulasi Gowda from Karnataka was chosen for the coveted national award for nurturing plants and sharing her knowledge with the new generation, carrying forward the message of environmental protection.

Harekala Hajabba, an illiterate fruit vendor who is described as 'Akshara Santa', has life’s earnings towards educating others. He is known for educating poor children in Newpadupu in Dakshin Kannada for over 20 years using his meagre earnings from selling oranges in Mangaluru. He set up Hajabba school initially in a community mosque and later turned into Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat Higher Primary School with the help of local people and government.

Hajabba, who now plans to upgrade the school to a pre-University college, had faced hardships because of being uneducated and did not want future generations to go through the same. Despite not even having a proper house, he "selflessly worked for others, neglecting his own needs".

A bicycle mechanic, 80-year-old Mohd Sharif has been performing the last rites of thousands of unclaimed dead bodies for the last 25 years in UP's Faizabad. He has performed last rites of over 25,000 in the past 25 years in accordance with the person’s religious practices -- cremating Hindus and burying Muslims.

Confined to a wheelchair since 1997 due to spinal injury from a bullet hit in a militant attack, Javed Ahmad Tak (46) from Jammu and Kashmir's does not feel that he has any constraint when it comes to serving the cause of disabled. A staunch believer of the motto 'be a part, not apart', he has been working with specially-abled children for two decades and was the brain behind the projects to ensure child-friendly spaces in over 40 villages in Anantnag and Pulwama.

Known as Langar Baba' for organising food for over 2000 poor patients at Chandigarh PGIMER daily for at least two decades, Jagdish Lal Ahuja (84), another Padma Shri winner, had started serving free food in the 1980s. A self-made crorepati who sold off properties to fuel his mission, and continues to serve undeterred even by stomach cancer, he had come to India "empty-handed" during partition.

The 'Uncle Moosa of Arunachal', Sathyanarayan Mundayoor (69) is another Padma winner this time. A Malayali who quit his government job as a Revenue Officer in Mumbai in 1979 to move to Lohit in Arunachal Pradesh, he was instrumental in setting up 13 Bamboosa libraries in remote areas with over 10,000 books each and starting home library movement there.

Abdul Jabbar, the late Convener of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, has been chosen for fighting for fair treatment and rehabilitation of Bhopal Gas Tragedy survivors for over three decades.

A former manual scavenger, Usha Chaumar (53) is described as an "embodiment of strong will and empowerment" and one who was helpless herself but become the voice of countless. She is now the president of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.

For transforming a drought probe Hiware Bazaar village, its "super sarpanch" Popatrao Pawar has been chosen for Padma Shri. Under him, Hiware Bazar now has no BPL families, no alcohol consumption and was amongst the first open-defecation villages in 1992.