Padma awards are Bharat’s highest civilian awards given to those belonging to different fields for their distinguished services in the particular field. These awards were constituted in 1954-55 and are presented for services in the fields of art, social work, public affairs, science & engineering, trade & industry, medicine, literature & education, civil service, sports, and others such as propagation of Indian Culture, protection of Human Rights, Wild Life protection/conservation, etc. Over the past few years, we are seeing many deserved candidates being presented with these awards.
Some of the Padma awardees this year are an inspiration and their stories need to be taken to the masses.
1) Shri S Ramakrishnan – founder of Amar Seva Sangam
Shri S Ramakrishnan founded the Amar Seva Sangam that is dedicated to the upliftment of the differently-abled. He belongs to Aaikudi in Tamil Nadu and desired to join the armed services. During one of the endurance and intelligence training programs, he had to jump onto a platform from a tree. However, tragedy struck and he landed on the ground. The mishap left him immobile from below the neck, a condition is medically known as tetraplegia.
The tragedy, however, couldn’t sap his spirit as he drew inspiration from the words of Air Vice-Marshal Dr. Amarjit Singh Chahal who had told him that his life had much to offer besides his frail body. When he returned to his hometown in Tenkasi, he attempted to start a printing press but failed in the same as no one wanted to come forward and help a differently-abled entrepreneur.
The Sangam was started about three decades ago with the aim of creating a valley for the disabled. The lives of more than six lakh people in 800 villages over four blocks in the Tirunelveli district have been covered by the Sangam. The organization teaches those who are either mentally disabled or wheelchair-bound to be self-reliant.
2) Shri Wayan Dibia – Bali’s influential Kecak Dancer and scholar
Shri Wayan Dibia who has been awarded the Padma Shri is an exponent of Kecak which is a traditional Indonesian art form that depicts chapters from the Hindu Itihas Ramayana. He belongs to a family of artists and has been learning Balinese dance and music from the young age of 8. After having learned different forms of Balinese dance and drama from several masters on the island, Dibia began choreographing dances and dramas that have been featured in important events and art festivals not just in Indonesia but overseas as well. He choreographed a unique production of Mahabharata titled Pralaya that was a collaboration of Bharatanatyam, Balinese dance, and Topeng mask dancers.
3) Acharya M K Kunjol – social activist
Acharya MK Kunjol is a social activist from Kerala who has been fighting for the rights of the indigenous vanvasi people. In the 70s, he helped the vanvasi people of Urulanthanni in Kuttampuzha to fight for their land rights. “The ruling sections — both LDF and UDF — always favored elite classes. I had held a 382-day protest in the 1970s demanding the transfer of a police officer, who favored the land mafia which had encroached upon the land of the SC community at Muvattupuzha. Finally, then Governor intervened in the matter to ensure justice was delivered”, he has been quoted as saying by The New Indian Express.
4) Shri BB Lal – archaeologist
Prof BB Lal, who has been awarded Padma Vibhushan, is a renowned archaeologist. He was former Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India. He is credited with excavations ranging from the Paleolithic to the early historical period and includes sites such as Kalibangan, Ayodhya, Hastinapura, and Indraprastha. His excavations have played a significant role in the Ram Janmabhoomi verdict.
“According to Professor Lal, a five-site excavation project was carried out at Ayodhya, Nandigram, Shringaverapur, Bharadwaj Ashram, and Chitrakoot to date the sites associated with Ramayana. He said that while excavating the area immediately south of the Babri structure, he found pillar bases. He wrote a seven-page preliminary report about the discovery of pillar bases near the Babri structure. However, following the discovery, all technical facilities were withdrawn from the area and the project was halted”, reported OpIndia.
5) Srimati Sindhutai Sapkal – social activist
Sindhutai is also known as Mai meaning mother and is often called the mother of a thousand orphans for raising orphaned children. She was forced out of her matrimonial home when she was just 20 and was pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl but could neither return to her mother’s home nor her in-laws’ place. With nowhere to go and a newborn, she is reported to have spent her nights at cemeteries and cowsheds.
At this time, she began spending time with orphaned children and adopted a dozen of them. She survived and fed her daughter as well as the orphans by begging in trains and on the streets. Eventually, in 1970, she was able to establish her first Ashram in Amravati’s Chikaldara. She set up and registered her NGO named Savitribai Phule Girls’ Hostel in Chikaldara. She hasn’t looked back since and has dedicated her entire life to orphans.
6) Matha B. Manjamma Jogati – trangender folk artist
Matha Manjamma Jogati’s story is as inspirational as it gets. She was abandoned by her family at the age of 15 and resorted to begging on the streets. Jogati turned her life around by learning a form of folk dance known as Jogathi Nrithya. Although she learned the dance as means of survival, she soon excelled in it so much so that former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa appointed her the president of the Karnataka Janapada Academy, a government body for performing arts. She is, in fact, the first transgender person to head the academy.
These are just some of the numerous Padma awardees who are an inspiration for generations of Bharatiyas. However, including the likes of Ekta Kapoor, Karan Johar, Adnan Sami, and others from the Bollywood stable, among those like Kashi’s Dom Raja, is probably not desirable since their contribution to society is questionable, to say the least.
(Featured Image Source: Factly website)