In a heartening development, this year the Padma Shri, which is the fourth-highest civilian award in India, is being awarded to many of the country's unsung heroes.
The awardees have enriched the lives of those around them in many ways — from fighting fires, farming in drought-like conditions, to perfecting and preserving an art form with energy and perseverance.
Among the lesser well known heroes who will receive the Padma Shri are 91-year-old Bhakti Yadav of Indore who is popularly known as 'Doctor Dadi' and Shekhar Naik, the captain of the Indian cricket team for the blind. Among the other noteworthy Padma Shri awardees are:
Meenaakshi Amma (76), Kerala: Fondly known as the 'granny with a sword,' Meenaakshi began her martial arts classes at the age of seven. She is the country's oldest woman Kalaripayattu exponent and has been practising and teaching martial arts for over 68 years. Kalaripayattu originated in south-west Kerala and is believed to be the root of all Chinese martial arts.
Bipin Ganatra (59), West Bengal: The volunteer fire fighter is the only person besides the fire brigade personnel who has been to almost every fire accident site in Kolkata in the last 40 years. Ganatra decided to devote his life to helping people caught in fire after losing his brother in an inferno.
Chintakindi Mallesham (44), Telangana: He invented the Laxmi ASU machine that helps reduce the time and labour required to weave Pochampalli silk sarees. His invention has had a positive impact on weavers working with 60 percent of the looms used to weave Pochampalli sarees. A school dropout, Mallesham was motivated to invent the machine to relieve the pain his mother Laxmi had to endure while weaving.
Daripalli Ramaiah (68), Telangana: Known as the Tree Man, Ramaiah has dedicated his life to making India green by planting over one crore trees. He takes out seeds from his pocket and plants them wherever he sees a barren spot.
Karimul Haque (52), West Bengal: The tea-garden worker affectionately called 'Ambulance Dada' converted his bike into an ambulance offering 24x7 services. He designed the bike ambulance after he could not save his mother's life as there was no ambulance to take her to the hospital.
Genabhai Dargabhai Patel (52), Gujarat: Known as 'Anar dada', Patel is a 'divyang' or specially-abled farmer whose efforts led to his drought-hit village in Banaskantha district becoming the largest producer of pomegranate in India.
Dr Subroto Das (51), Gujarat: Hailed as the 'Highway Messiah', Das is one of the pioneers in bringing medical relief to accident victims on national highways. He started the Lifeline Foundation after he met with an accident. Today, he provides emergency medical services on the highway network spanning 4,000 kilometres in Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
Girish Bharadwaj (66), Karnataka: Known as 'Sethu bandhu', the social worker has built over 100 low-cost and eco-friendly suspension bridges connecting remote villages across India.
(With inputs from PTI)
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