The Padma Awards 2017 are a celebration of those unsung heroes who have dedicated their lives to India.
he Padma Awards are the most prestigious civilian awards in this country, felicitating achievers in various fields, from science and engineering to art and social work. This year’s list of Padma Awards has been applauded for the celebration of the hidden figures whose quiet yet tireless efforts have made a significant impact on the country.
Here are some of these unsung heroes who make this country — and the world — a better place.
While most of us are busy struggling with our kitchen garden, green crusader Daripalli Ramaiah has planted millions of trees. The native of Telangana’s Khammam district carries seeds and plants them wherever he spots barren ground. Over the years, he has collected rare native seeds, lobbied with political leaders for green initiatives and painted eco-friendly messages and slogans.
2. Dr Bhakti Yadav
Popularly known as Doctor Dadi, Dr Bhakti Yadav has been treating patients for free since the 1940s. The first female MBBS from Indore, the 91-year-old is renowned for having delivered thousands of babies and is estimated to have tended to over 1 lakh patients through the decades.
3. Meenakshi Amma
The oldest woman proponent of Kalaripayattu, age is just a number to the lady famous as “granny with a sword.” The 76-year-old began mastering the martial arts form at the age of seven. She has practised the art form ever since, and has also been training students at her school in the Vatakara village of Kerala since 2009.
4. Dr Subroto Das
Every time you call 108 to deal with a highway emergency, remember to thank Dr Subroto Das. After a highway accident left him and his friends waiting for hours for medical assistance, Dr Subroto began setting up the first highway helpline numbers for travellers in Gujarat from 2002. His NGO offered technical expertise for setting up the unified 108 number that runs, free of cost, in over 20 states.
5. Bipin Ganatra
This Kolkata resident may not be a professional fire fighter, but has doused the city’s fire accidents for four decades. The 59-year-old is a volunteer with the fire department and spends days and nights rescuing victims, extinguishing flames and cleaning debris. He earns his meagre living as an electrician, and spends the rest of his time working with the fire department.
6. Shekhar Naik
Shekhar never let his lack of vision hamper his passion for sports. Growing up in poverty—and losing his parents at the age of 12—this resident of Shimoga, Karnataka, found his happiness in cricket. As former captain of the national blind cricket team, he helmed his team to major victories, including the 2012 T20 Blind Cricket World Cup and the Blind Cricket World Cup in 2014.
7. Girish Bhardwaj
Many decades earlier, engineering graduate Girish Bharadwaj found himself unable to get a job. Now, the 67-year-old is known for transforming his unemployed status to do something truly remarkable—building bridges in remote villages all over India. Known as Sethu (bridge) Bandhu (friend), he has built over 100 low-cost bridges in states like Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
8. Thangalevu Mariyappan
The first Indian high jumper to have won gold at the Paralympics 2016, this athlete has braved many odds. At the age of five, a bus ran over him crushing his leg. His disability and poverty did not dent his love for sports and he began competing in high jump tournaments as a teenager. His win made him only the third Indian to win a Paralympics gold.
9. Eli Ahmad
Hailing from Assam, this 81-year-old winner has many achievements. She founded, and continues to run, Orani, the founder of the oldest magazine for women living in northeast India. The resident of Assam has been running the magazine since 1970. The writer activist has also written plays on disabilities and child exploitation, and established Assam’s first film institute.
10. Balbir Singh Seechewal
One of Punjab’s most famous environmentalists, Balbir Singh Seechewal famously revived the state’s Kali Bein River. The environmentalist single-handedly mobilised residents of more than 20 villages and initiated a mass movement of desilting the 110-mile-long rivulet and beautifying the banks. The environmentalist also encourages people to keep rivers clean and keep water scarcity at bay.
11. Genabhai Dargabhai Patel
A disabled divyang farmer from a village of Banaskantha district,Gujarat, Genabhai is better known as “anar dada.” Why? He began cultivating pomegranates in 2005, to counter the difficult drought in his district. Not only did he adopt new technologies to increase produce, but spread the knowledge among other farmers too. Thanks to him, this region now boasts the country’s highest pomegranate yield.
12. Karimul Haque
A tea plantation worker hailing from West Bengal’s Dhalabari village, Karimul Haque runs a bike transport service to help locals access medical services swiftly. The Karimul Bike Ambulance is funded by its founder’s own earnings, and the service has helped more than 3,000 people receive medical assistance.
13. Sukri Bomma Gowda
Hailed as the “nightingale of the Halakki,” Sukri ajji (as she is called) has kept the songs and poetry of the Halakki Vokkaligas tribes for decades. Hailing from northern Karnataka, Sukri is the representation of a steadily vanishing tribe. This 75-year-old and her small group of singers strive to keep their community’s traditions alive via their songs that narrate their way of life.
14. Chintakindi Mallesham
Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, Chintakindi is known as the creator of the Laxmi ASU machine, which makes the weaving of the state’s iconic Pochampally silk sarees less laborious and time-consuming. The high school dropout developed the machine to ease the burden on his mother, also a weaver, and has been awarded numerous innovation and entrepreneurship awards for his invention.
15. Dr Suhas Vitthal Mapuskar
Dr Suhas arrived at Dehu, a village in Pune district, in 1960 as a doctor, and changed its course forever. The doctor took it upon himself to provide toilets for the locals and even devised his own indigenous design for toilets that wouldn’t get washed away in the rains. His efforts over the decades earned him the title of ‘Swachh Dhoot’ among villagers and followers. He passed away in 2015 and has been conferred the award posthumously.
16. Dr Suniti Solomon
One of India’s most renowned doctors, Dr Solomon is known for her pioneering achievements in AIDS research. The late physician and microbiologist is credited with diagnosing the first case of AIDS in India in the year 1985. Her extensive contribution in the area led to the foundation of the Y R Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education, Chennai. Most significantly, her frank discourse helped to break many myths and taboos associated with the disease.