The Bold Voice of J&K

Padma Awards 2017

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Nivedita Khandekar
The girl from a tiny village Gosala near Vijayawada went on to become first woman graduate in the Vijayawada taluk thanks to her determination, her endless efforts at overcoming grim odds. As reported by The Hindu Koteswaramma knew education opens up new vistas of growth as it did for her – “in those days, it was very difficult to get girls educated as no girls would step out of home after crossing 13 years,” she had told The Hindu correspondent – and so she strove hard to bring that quality change in lives of others.
The state level and national level ‘Best Teacher’ awardee, she set up Montessori Junior and Degree Colleges and later the Montessori College of Education, offering the entire range from KG to PG.
Recognising those working at the grass root level
Government officials said, special emphasis was laid on awarding recognition to those who have been rendering selfless service to the society at the grass root level. “This government has been instrumental in recognising the work of unsung persons working at grass root level in awarding the Padma awards,” the officials added.
A perfect example can be said that of Sukri Bommagowda, also called the nightingale of Halakki Vokalinga tribes in Karnataka. The singer and performer of tribal folk music for almost six decades now, the social activist led a protest against the sale of liquor at Badigeri haadi (a small hamlet). She has also been instrumental in preserving cultural heritage by way of singing songs to save the culture from disappearing.
Another grass root person is ‘Eco Baba’ Balbir Singh Seechewal, who has resurrected the 160-kms long Kali Bein River in Punjab by mobilising local volunteers and developing the Seechewal Model of underground sewerage system. He mobilised volunteers and raised funds from locals to first create awareness amongst locals to not dispose sewage into the river; led to a clean riverbed; restored natural spring and brought the river to life again. That is what sets him apart. Scores of Gurus have become visible across media scene thanks to their celebrity followers but Seechewal stands out tall amongst them for his humble background and grass root work.
Similar is the case of Shekhar Naik. While his counterparts from other forms of cricket have nearly an iconic following, Naik, a blind cricketer, – who has a career span of 13 years with 32 centuries to his credit in 67 matches – is hardly known to even die hard cricket fans, forget rest of India. Naik was born to a poor family at a nondescript village in Karnataka. He rose literally through the ranks in his cricket matches, fought a untrustworthy system and yet achieved excellence – comparable to his ‘peers who can see’ from cricketing world. But as the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) is yet to get recognition from the BCCI, Naik and his ilk are made to suffer needlessly.
“Despite representing India for 13 years, I don’t get any money for playing cricket. It is my NGO Samarthanam, where I work as a sports coordinator, which pays me Rs 15,000 as monthly salary,” Naik told Hindustan Times.
Indeed, an ordinary man with extraordinary vision (pun intended). Hope, the Padma award will change the situation for better for Naik.
And hope also that the trend or recognising the unsung will continue every year from now onwards.
(Author is an independent journalist based in Delhi. She writes on environmental, developmental and social issues. The opinions expressed above are her personal).

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