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Pune’s Sindhutai Sapkal and Girish Prabhune named Padmashree award winners

The Padmashree awards for the year 2021 were declared on Monday by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and two prominent names from Pune – Sindhu Tai Sapkal and Girish Prabhune, are among the awardees
By Dheeraj Bengrut, Pune
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 11:14 PM IST

The Padmashree awards for the year 2021 were declared on Monday by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and two prominent names from Pune – Sindhu Tai Sapkal and Girish Prabhune, are among the awardees.

Sapkal, popularly known as “Mai”, has been working throughout her life for orphaned children, starting and running an orphanage in Pune near Hadapsar.

Reacting to the award, Sapkal said, “I am overwhelmed after hearing the news of me being given the Padmashree award. It will certainly help to reduce the hunger of my children at the orphanage. All of them, who have till now, helped, supported and stood behind me strongly - this award is dedicated to them. And to all my children, who are my backbone. I never give up or have stopped my work despite the many obstacles in front of me. This award is for the hunger of my children. I never forgot my past and look forward to work more for my children.”

Sapkal added: “There was hunger and fire in my belly, which I realised is there in all my children’s stomach, so I shared my hunger with all and started the work for orphaned children. I remember my father while accepting this award. He always used to tell me to fight the situation rather than cry. I really miss him today.”

Sapkal runs an orphanage called ‘Sanmati Bal Niketan Sanstha’ in Manjri near Hadapsar. It has its own building with all the facilities for children, and is run on public donations.

In 2010, a Marathi biopic on Sapkal was released in Maharashtra.

Reacting to his award, Girish Prabhune said, “For the deprived community I have worked for my entire life and all our volunteers who are struggling for the last 50 years, this award is dedicated to them. And similarly, the Pardhi community. They fought hard for their survival and sent their children, especially the girls, to be educated. It is all because of them all. While accepting this award I am really happy, but at the same time I would like to say that it is all because of all these volunteers who have worked along with me. This Padmashree award is a recognition of my work by the government,”

Prabhune started the Punarutthan Samarasata Gurukulam, an NGO in the Chinchwad area for the upliftment of the Pardhi community and their children.

Prabhune runs a school and residential facility for the Pardhi children.

There are 200 boys and 150 girls from the Paradhi community staying at the facility, based on the “Gurukul” stystem of education.

“In 1970 I started my social work and then I came in contact with rural parts of the state. I learnt about the difficulties and issues faced by the Pardhi community. They never give up, is the lesson I learnt from them. Looking at them I changed and developed myself towards social work,” he added.

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