Jagdish Lal Ahuja has spent the last 15-years of his life serving free food to hundreds of poor patients and attendants outside PGIMER in Chandigarh.
Jagdish Lal Ahuja has spent the last 15-years of his life serving free food to hundreds of poor patients and attendants outside PGIMER in Chandigarh.

One feeds poor, the other gives them dignity in death: A look at top Padma Shri winners

71st Republic Day: 21 people, who will be recognised for their yeomen services in their fields of excellence, include Mohammed Sharif, Jagdish Lal Ahuja, Tulsi Gowda, Javed Ahmad Tek and (late) Abdul Jabbar.
New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2020 10:59 PM IST

Names of people to be awarded India’s second-highest civilian honour, the Padma awards were announced on the eve of the 71st Republic Day on Saturday evening. This year the President has approved conferment of 141 Padma Awards including 4 duo cases (in a duo case, the Award is counted as one). The list comprises 7 Padma Vibhushan, 16 Padma Bhushan and 118 Padma Shri Awards. 34 of the awardees are women and the list also includes 18 persons from the category of Foreigners/Non Resident Indians/Persons of Indian Origin/Overseas Citizens of India and 12 Posthumous awardees.

Here’s a brief look at some of the Padma Shri awardees, who are being recognised for their yeomen services in their fields of excellence.

80-years old Mohammed Sharif, fondly called ‘Chacha Sharif’ will be conferred with Padma Shri for selflessly performing the last rites of thousands of unclaimed dead bodies for the last 25 years in and around Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, despite his meagre income as a bicycle mechanic.

Sharif is considered to be an epitome of communal harmony, who always took care of the deceased’s religious beliefs and performed the last rites accordingly.

Sharif will be joined in receiving the Padma Shri by 84-years old cancer patient and an erstwhile refugee from Pakistan, Jagdish Lal Ahuja, who has spent the last 15-years of his life serving free food to hundreds of poor patients and attendants outside Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh. Ahuja, had started serving free food in the 1980s and moved to PGIMER in 2000. He sold off his properties worth crore to chase his heart’s calling. He also provides patients other support, from financial assistance to blankets and clothes.

46-years old, Javed Ahmad Tak from Anantnag in Kashmir, will be another worthy recipient of Padma Shri award tomorrow. The specially-abled social Worker, who is wheelchair-ridden after receiving a spinal in a militant attack, has been working with specially-abled children for the last two decades and has established Humanity Welfare Organization, Kashmir and Zaiba Aapa School for the children with special needs, which provides free education, material aid & motivation to more than 100 such children.

The republic day will also see the late activist, who held a 35- year-long struggle to get justice to the victims and survivors of the Bhopal Gas tragedy, Madhya Pradesh’s Abdul Jabar, being awarded Padma Shri (posthumously)

Jabar Provided vocational training to 2,300 widows of men who perished in the gas leak and filed several cases fighting for medical rehabilitation of victims. The Bhopal Gas leak, from a Union Carbide plant, had killed more than 3,500 people in 1984.

Rajasthan’s 53-year old Usha Chaumar, will also be given Padma Shri tomorrow. Chaumar is a former manual scavenger, who eventually became the President of Sulabh International, an organisation leading the fight for sanitation in India and abroad. Chaumar, now has become the voice fighting against the practice of manual scavenging.

72-year old Tulasi Gowda from Karnataka, may be illiterate, but is not short on rare wisdom. This Tribal woman has unmatched knowledge of plants and herbs and is rightly called the ‘Encyclopedia of Forest’. Despite being poor and from a backward community, she has planted and nursed thousands of trees over the past 60 years. She will also be awarded Padma Shri tomorrow.

Another awardee, Sathyanarayan Mundayoor of Arunachal Pradesh, also called Uncle Moosa, has been promoting education and culture of reading for the pas four decades in the remote areas of Northeastern states.

Maharashtra’s Poptarao Pawar, a resident of Ahmednagar has done stellar work in reviving ground water in drought-prone area, while 64-year old social worker Harekala Hazabba from Karnataka has been providing affordable education to poor children. All most all awardees inspire with their selfless service and can be considered the beacons of humanity.

Bengal’s Arunoday Mondal, treats patients in remote Sunderbans while Gandhians Radha Mohan and his daughter Sabarmatee have used organic farming technique to convert a wasteland into a food forest. They have all been awarded Padma Shri along with a tribal farmer from Meghalaya, Trinity Saioo, who is leading turmeric farming, Chennai oncologist Ravi Kannan, who is saving cancer afflicted patients in Assam, S Ramakrishnan, who has rehabilitated more than 14,000 specially-abled people inTamil Nadu.

Other award winners include, Munna Master, a Muslim bhajan singer and 68-year old environmentalist Sundaram Verma, who planted 50,000 trees, both from Rajasthan, Yogi Aeron, an 81-year old doctor treating burn and bite victims for free for decades in Uttarakhand and Rahibai Soma Popere, a tribal woman who has earned global fame for her work in agro-biodiversity conservation.

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