Tribune Web Desk
Chandigarh, January 25
A ‘langar baba’, who served free food daily to hundreds of poor patients and attendants, and a bicycle mechanic, who performed the last rites of more than 25,000 unclaimed bodies over the past 25 years, are among this year’s Padma Shri awardees.
The names were announced by the government on the eve of Republic Day on Saturday.
Jagdish Lal Ahuja, aka ‘langar baba’, serves free food daily to hundreds of poor patients and attendants outside PGIMER in Chandigarh. He also provides patients other support, from financial assistance to blankets and clothes. A self-made crorepati, Ahuja had come to India empty handed during Partition. He sold off properties worth crores to fuel his mission, and continues to serve undeterred even by stomach cancer.
Mohammed Sharif, better known as Chacha Sharif, never differentiated on the basis of religion – performing the last rites in accordance with the person’s religious practices (cremating Hindus and burying Muslims). A bicycle mechanic by profession, he struggles to make ends meet.
Also among the awardees are Javed Ahmad Tak from J-K's Anantnag who improved the lives of Kashmir’s divyang children and Tulasi Gowda from Karnataka, also known as encyclopedia of forest. Gowda, an illiterate Halakki tribal woman is known for possessing endless knowledge of plants and herbs.
The awardees, announced on the eve of Republic Day, also include elephant doctor from Assam Kushal Konwar Sarma.
Sathyanarayan Mundayoor, known as Uncle Moosa of Arunachal Pradesh, who has been promoting education and reading culture in remote areas of Northeastern states for last four decades; Abdul Jabbar aka 'voice of Bhopal' (posthumously), known for fighting for the cause of victims and survivor of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy; and Usha Chaumar, a Dalit social worker working in the field of sanitation in Rajasthan, have also been given the award.
Poptarao Pawar of Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), known for reviving ground water of in drought prone Hiware Bazar area; Harekala Hazabba, a 64-year-old social worker from Karnataka providing affordable education to poor children; Arunoday Mondal, a doctor from West Bengal who treats patients in remote Sunderbans; Radha Mohan and his daughter Sabarmatee, both Gandhians who have converted a piece of degraded land into a vast food forest in Odisha by using only organic techniques are among the Padma Shri awardees, it said.
A school and tribal farmer from Meghalaya, Trinity Saioo, who is spearheading a turmeric farming movement, Ravi Kannan, an oncologist from Chennai who is treating cancer patients in Assam's Barak Valley, S Ramakrishnan, a specially-abled social worker who has rehabilitated more than 14,000 specially abled people in over four decades in Tamil Nadu have also been given the coveted prize.
The government has also conferred Padma Shri to 68-year old environmentalist Sundaram Verma, who planted 50,000 trees in Rajasthan; Munna Master, a Muslim bhajan singer from the state; Yogi Aeron, an 81-year old doctor from Uttarakhand who has been treating burn and bite victims for free for last 35 years; and Rahibai Soma Popere, a self-taught tribal woman famous globally for her work in agro-biodiversity conservation. — With PTI inputs