“THE SERVICE sector should not be government-sponsored, rather it should be government-supported. With sustained campaign involving the citizens, the government can eradicate any disease and bring forth development,” opined Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi here tonight.
Modi was speaking at a function organised by Ahilyotsav Samiti to honour Damodar Ganesh Bapat of Chhattisgarh with the 10th Ahilyadevi National Award for his service in the field of leprosy. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi was also felicitated for his role in installing Ahilyadevi’s statue on Parliament premises.
Asserting that we were still engulfed in the colonial mindset, Modi said, “Unfortunately even today, in our country, `service’ is associated with missionaries. But since ages, we have persons doing yeoman service in every field and they do not even seek publicity. Its unfortunate that we don’t even recognise them.”
“Bapat’s life and work can be an inspiration for others. By honouring Bapat, the Samiti has not just recognised his work, it will also encourage other such people who are working in remote areas,” Modi added. Bapat was felicitated by the Ahilyotsav Samiti for rendering over three decades of service for rehabilitating people affected with leprosy in a remote village in Champa in Chhattisgarh.
The Gujarat Chief Minister also doled out statistics to affirm that his state became leprosy free after three years of sustained campaign and claimed that even Government of India and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had acknowledged the fact.
After clearing the western misconception about service, Modi went on to clear another misconception - about state of women in India. “In the US, which boasts of over 200 years of democracy, women got the right to vote only in 1960.
But women in India, got the same right as soon as we declared ourselves as a republic,” Modi said adding, “not just this, they (the US) still do not have any woman head but here we have a beautiful example of how good a woman ruler can be in the form of Ahilybai Holkar.”
Accepting the honour, Bapat said, “with this award, I feel, not me but the leprosy work is being honoured. This would help in great way to spread awareness about leprosy eradication.”
Clad in a simple dhoti and kurta, Bapat went on to elaborate how his mentor Sadashiv Katre gave him direction and inspired him to work for the cause of the society.
“Temptations could have come my way, but I think blessings of Katreji and Guruji (RSS ex-chief Golwalkar Guruji) helped me in my sustained efforts to work for leprosy patients,” the septuagenarian social worker, also an RSS pracharak, said.
The 10th Ahilyadevi National Award, given on the occasion of 211th death anniversary of the legendary ruler, includes Rs one lakh, collected by contribution of people of Indore, a citation, a shawl and a shrifal (coconut).
Speaking on the occasion, Manohar Joshi said, “Ahilyadevi’s biography can be a worthy guide for good governance. She epitomised the principles of how an able administrator should be and we should all follow it.”
Praising Bapat, the former Maharashtra Chief Minister said “It’s people like Bapat who act as the lighthouse for the society. Even today, we hesitate to shake hands with people affected with leprosy and here is someone who has been living with the lepers and actually works for their uplift.”
“Its people like Bapatji who can take the nation forward and fulfil our respected President APJ Kalam’s Vision 2020,” Joshi said and added, “its easier to be a politician than being a social worker. Bapat’s work thus becomes important example for all of us.”
Earlier, Indore MP and BJP vice-president Sumitra Mahajan, who is also the president of the Ahilyotsav Samiti, welcomed the guests and informed the gathering about the work carried out by the Ahilyotsav Samiti. Prominent people of the City representing different organisations and social groups welcomed Modi, Joshi and Bapat with bouquets and garlands.
Shashikant Wadke, the sculptor who crafted Ahilydevi’s statue installed on Parliament premises and two members of the selection committee who selected Wadke’s work were also felicitated on the occasion. Two audio-visual clippings were shown before the start of the programme. While one was a documentary on Bapat’s work at the Bharatiya Kushtha Nivarak Sangh at Champa, the other was that of unveiling of Ahilyadevi Holkar’s statue in the Parliament.
The programme started with singing of Vande Mataram and ended with the national anthem. Vote of thanks was proposed by Subhash Waghmare.