Call them women of substance or beacons of hope, 32 women from Haryana will be honoured by the state government at a state-level function at Panipat on Wednesday for their contribution towards social cause and exemplary achievements in their fields of choice despite odds in a state infamous for gender bias. While stories of all the awardees are heart-warming, Rajesh Moudgil profiles the top four women achievers who have helped improve the lives of others through their selfless efforts or scaled new heights.
Neha Mittal (43)
A resident of Fatehabad, Neha will get the Indira Gandhi Mahila Shakti Award, carrying a cash prize of Rs 1.5 lakh, for social work and women empowerment for over a decade. Her Sankalp Swarozgar Kendra imparts free coaching to girls and women in stitching and beautician courses. Neha, who comes from a business family, began by training the girls on her own. She now has employed more trainers to cater to the growing demand. “These courses help girls become financially independent and help women empowerment,” she says. Giving her inspiration and money are her parents and in-laws. More than 200 girls and women have already either got good jobs in beauty parlours or run their own business after completing the course here.
Sushma Kaushik (30)
A resident of Panipat, Sushma will get the Kalpana Chawla Shaurya Award which carries prize money of Rs 50,000 for having scaled Mt Everest along with her husband Vikas. They are the youngest couple in the world and first in Asia to have achieved this feat at the age of 24, according to the Nepal government’s certification. While Sushma is sub-inspector in Haryana Police, Vikas is a software professional running a computer business with his elder brother. “My wife has scaled almost all the peaks in the country and Imja Tse (better known as Island peak) in Nepal. Though I used to go on trekking in my college days, Sushma inspired me after marriage and trained me in mountaineering,” he said. They plan to scale Mt Everest again in a year or two.
Anita Bhardwaj (34)
A resident of Jhajjar, Anita has also been selected for the Kalpana Chawla Shaurya award carrying prize money of Rs 50,000. An ayurvedic doctor, Anita will get the award for her services in high-altitude medicines. Anita, along with her husband, Pradeep Bhardwaj, an MBBS doctor, and other team members, have been regularly going to Kailash Mansarovar, Manimahesh, Amarnath, Kedarnath and Badrinath to render free medical services to pilgrims. “We don’t charge anything from pilgrims as serving people gives us a lot of satisfaction,” she said. The couple also went to Nepal after an earthquake caused large-scale devastation in the Himalayan to serve the needy, for which the Nepal government also honoured them.
Usha Bhandari (68)
A resident of Sonepat, Usha has been selected for the lifetime achievement award with prize money of `51,000, She fondly recalls how she began philanthropy two decades back while she was teaching at the Sonepat ITI. As one of the most active members of several social fora, she has headed senior citizens’ club for six years and has also been office holder of the Inner Wheel Club for several years. She exerts to ensure that the needy also get the help government agencies provide – such as pensions and other financial assistance for destitute and physically challenged — for which she not only gets their forms filled but also accompany them till they get the financial help. Camps for poor students in which she distributes books and uniforms, vocational courses for girls, mass marriage of poor girls are some of her regular initiatives.