72-year-old Birubala Rabha from Assam.
What connects 62-year-old Chutni Mahato from Jharkhand, 72-year-old Sindhutai Sapkal from Maharashtra, 63-year-old Kanaka Raju from Telengana, 105-year-old R Pappammal from Thekkampatti village near Coimbatore, and 72-year-old Birubala Rabha from Assam? They are all incredible women who come from humble backgrounds, and, when confronted with extraordinary challenges, they not only overcame all odds, but went on to touch several lives. Yes, for all those who followed the list of Padma Shri awardees for the year 2021, you have got the connection: they are all proud and most deserving names in the awardee list of the Padma Shri this year, along with several such other winners of India’s fourth-highest civilian awards, who come from humble backgrounds but have contributed immensely in their respective areas: from arts to music, from social work to agriculture, from sports to science and technology.
I will not go into the specific details of the four amazing women awardees that I have previously mentioned because one can easily do an internet search to know about their exemplary and inspiring stories. I just couldn’t help but compliment the efforts of the government, especially the Home Ministry and the selection panel, for ensuring that the Padma Awards truly become the ‘people’s Padma’ as it has been projected by the government. The Padma Awards, including Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri, are amongst the highest civilian awards of the country. Instituted in 1954, these Awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day every year.
It is, indeed, very heart-warming that effort is being made to explore the length and breadth of the country, and venture into remote interior villages to look for truly unsung Indians who have been able to make a tremendous impact on the lives of a huge list of beneficiaries through their relentless efforts in different areas of influence. These people are a huge inspiration for every citizen of the country and, in many ways, celebrate true greatness that doesn’t need the popularity and media attention that tend to be associated with awards and honours.
This is the real Indian, the everyday hero who does extraordinary things despite very ordinary and humble circumstances, and does it without any materialistic motivation but sheer love for their craft, with a passion to impact lives positively at all times, despite various challenges. These people have overcome the same constraints and predicaments that we may choose to use as an excuse when we fail to overcome our own challenges. They prove that anything and everything is possible if we have the will to do it. We have all got our own inherent abilities and natural talents. If we can discover and develop the passion that is required to achieve the apparently impossible, we can, in the long run, do what perhaps we, at one point of time, thought was just an incredible dream.
I have just come across an appeal from the Ministry of Home Affairs wherein all Central Ministries, States, and UT governments, Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan awardees, institutes of excellence are called upon to identify persons whose excellence and achievements deserve to be recognised from amongst women, weaker sections of the society, SCs and STs, ‘divyang’ persons, and everyone else who are devoted to selfless service for the society. All citizens can also make nominations/recommendations, including self-nomination. I think this is a great opportunity to nominate such great people around us who may not yet be well-known to a larger audience but their contributions merit recognition. I am sure all of us are aware of such great people around us who are role models for all of us and their efforts need recognition. It is not that such people will ever be concerned about any accolades but, in many ways, such worthy recipients add more stature and dignity to any award.
As the government demonstrates its commitment to transform Padma Awards into People’s Padma, all of us can play a role in nominating such unsung heroes and let these wonderful stories continue to inspire the next generations and help India prosper in a manner that is truly inclusive, touching all people, whether rural or urban, whether prosperous or from humble backgrounds.