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Assam anti-leprosy activist since 1948 honoured

By The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, Jan 28 (IANS): A 94-year-old social activist, who dedicated his life to fighting leprosy in Assam's Karbi Anglong district since 1948, was Wednesday honoured by the state government.

Gandhian and social activist Janardan Pathak became the first person to be conferred with the "Amal Prabha Das Award for Social Service" for the year 2013.

The award was instituted by the Assam government in 2013 to honour people for their distinguished service to the society.

Pathak was honoured for his service to the nation while following the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. He has worked for fighting leprosy in Karbi Anglong district (then called the Mikir Hills) since 1948.

The activist Wednesday said he would donate the award money - Rs.60,000 - to a trust to help poor students of the backward district in the form of scholarships so that they can pursue future studies.

"I met Mahatma Gandhi for the first time on May 25, 1945. I told him I want to work for the society. He asked me to complete my studies first and then go back to the northeast region and meet social reformer Thakkar Bapa, who will show me the path," said Pathak after receiving the award.

"Following Gandhiji's instruction, I came back to Assam in 1948. Thakkar Bapa told me to go to the Mikir Hills district, where leprosy was taking a severe toll. I started the Gandhi Seva Kendra in Sariahjan in 1948, and since then I have been running the kendra," he said.

Sariahjan is 65 km from Karbi Anglong district headquarters Diphu.

Pathak recalled vividly the day of Gandhi's assassination -- Jan 30, 1948.

"Gandhiji's assassination was a dark moment for humanity. It changed the course of my life forever. I was shocked to learn about his death and all I could do was pick up a fistful of earth and dedicate my life to the path shown by him. I have never looked back and I have no regrets," he said.

On leprosy, he said: "Leprosy is almost eradicated now. But those days, it was a serious problem. Patients were treated like untouchables. My colleagues and I had to work hard to remove the stigma about the disease."

Pathak underwent anti-leprosy volunteer training while studying in Wardha in Gujarat.

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