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Karnataka's Amai Mahalinga Naik is a 70-year-old skilled labourer who has converted his barren land into a flourishing farm in Kepu Village, near Adyandka, some distance off from Mangaluru. He has been honoured with the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian award by the union government for his contributions towards agriculture.
The award list was published on January 25; clueless about his selection, Naik was happy and remembered his landlord, who had given him the piece of barren hilltop in the 70s. Amai Mahabala Bhat gifted him a two-acre barren land in 1978.
Naik is often referred to as 'Suranga Man' or 'Tunnel Man' because to convert his barren land into a flourishing farm, he resorted to the traditional approach by digging horizontal tunnels into hillocks to get water.
His determination and perseverance not only helped him find water but ensured sufficient supply after he completed digging all the tunnels. The 40-year-old model farm has yielded rich results in the form of Naik's self-sustaining life and raising arecanut, coconut, cashew and banana plants on his two-acre land.
Amai Mahalinga Naik's farm is the living proof of a man's incredible optimism and has established him as a role model for small farmers. His farm draws thousands of visitors, mainly farmers, to know more about the farming methods, particularly ensuring water supply and conserving water. Naik and his farm was the subject of a documentary telecast on the History channel in April 2018.
Naik's story was made public by Shree Padre, agriculture expert and editor, 'Adike Patrika', an agricultural magazine. Times of India quoted Padre, "He developed a sustainable, lively resource from zero. Today he has a good garden, water resource and sustainable agriculture that is man-made. For me, he is a one-man army on a hilltop. But for his sheer optimism and determination, the greenery there could not have been developed. When he was digging suranga after suranga which failed, people ridiculed him," who has followed Naik's work for several years.
Netizens Shower Naik With Best Wishes
People from varied professions, including Karnataka Chief Minister, Union Ministers, and journalists, congratulated Naik.
Famously known as the Miracle Man of Mangaluru, Sri Amai Mahalinga Naik has been awarded with Padma Shri for his contribution in Agriculture— Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) January 25, 2022
Toiling for more than 40 years, he was successful in converting a barren land atop a hill into a lush green organic farm#PeoplesPadma 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/O67Iro4ONF
#Mangaluru A blank momento was handed over to Amai Mahalinga Naik who has been chosen for Padmashree Award when he was honoured during RD event. @DCDK9 attributed the gaffe to lack of time @XpressBengaluru @santwana99 pic.twitter.com/JYPknCSrjl— vincent dsouza (@vinndz_TNIE) January 26, 2022
Over the years, Amai Mahalinga Naik's achievements have caught the eyes of national and international media. Now, he has over a dozen oscillating sprinkler showers which splash water on 300 arecanut palms, 75 coconut trees, 150 cashew trees, 200 banana saplings and pepper vines growing in his two-acres land.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced that Kerala will have state-level awards to honour eight individuals who have provided invaluable service to society. Communist Party of India (Marxist) has long been declining Padma awards from the state. Yet, the lone state government led by the Party is all set to constitute 'state-level' awards, much similar to the Padma Honours in the country. The three categories for 'Kerala Awards' would be 'Kerala Jyothi', 'Kerala Prabha' and 'Kerala Sree', the CM had announced.
Applications To Be Invited Every Year
Among the eight people selected for the state's highest honour, Kerala Jyothi would be presented to one individual, two would receive Kerala Prabha, and five would be honoured with Kerala Sree. The Chief Minister had announced that the Department of Public Administration would invite the applications every year in April after declaring the number and details of the awards, News18 reported. After that, primary and secondary committees would scrutinize the nominations, and finally, an awards committee would take the final decision.
4 Padma Recipients From Kerala
The recipients would receive the award every year on Kerala Piravi, or Kerala Day celebrated on November 1. On January 26, 2022, four people from the state received the Padma honours. P Narayana Kurup is a poet and educationist, and he received the Padma Shri. Sankaranarayana Menon, a 93-year-old, is a Kalari Gurukkal of the Vallabhatta Kalari in Chavakkad in Kerala's Thrissur.
Menon and his family have played an essential role in keeping alive the traditional martial art form of Kalarippayattu. Rabiya, a specially-abled social worker, one of the Padma recipients, had also been a recipient of the National Youth Awards in 1993. Lastly, Sossama Iype, the fourth recipient of the Padma Awards, is known for her leadership in protecting Vechur cows in the state.
On a cold December morning, on her way to school, Dr Neelam Gupta saw a poor little girl on the roadside, shivering in the cold. She was only wearing a torn, thin, cotton shirt. Moved by the girl's pathetic condition, she gave her own woollen sweater to the kid. The next day, while going to school, she met the same girl again, wearing the same clothes. When asked about the sweater, she said that her father took it away to sell it off for some money, as they had nothing to eat.
The incident was the trigger for Gupta and she immediately decided to help the poor and needy how to 'fish and fend for themselves. That day, she decided to work for the upliftment of the poor and underprivileged people and provide equal opportunities for growth and development to as many poor people as possible.
How AROH Foundation Started?
Years later, when she was a grown-up woman, Gupta established AROH Foundation – a not for profit organisation, to realise her childhood dream of creating a positive change in society.
Set up and registered in 2001, AROH Foundation works towards empowering poor and marginalised communities through well-designed programmes in the area of education, skill development, sustainable livelihood, health and sanitation. Currently, the NGO is spread across more than 18 states of India.
AROH has its impact in the remotest locations of India, ranging from rugged terrains of Meghalaya to Naxal impacted red corridors in Chhattisgarh to aspirational districts of Sitamarhi, Bihar and has led to the socio-economic alleviation of around five lakh people by far.
"If entrepreneurship is a difficult life, social entrepreneurship can be more difficult. The first and biggest challenge came from my parents, who asked me to drop the 'stupid idea' and take up a job and get married. My parents found it stupid to think of charity when we could barely survive with my father's meagre salary. I was asked to achieve financial stability and wait for the right moment to give wings to my dream," Neelam Gupta, Founder President & CEO, AROH Foundation, told The Logical Indian.
"Being a woman can be doubly challenging in our society. I also passed through several challenging phases before I could start AROH Foundation. I got married and my career took a back seat. My family was sceptical about the scope and future of an NGO," she added.
Gupta decided to first become financially independent by taking some small business. She set up a printing and publishing business and ran it for about 10 years. It gave her good financial standing.
However, she felt the time was running out. The new millennium had started. She could wait no longer and registered AROH Foundation as a charitable society in 2001. She took up some research studies in fields like Primary and Secondary Education, Minority Education, Gender Parity, Female Foeticide, Girls Education, Women Empowerment, etc. However, she was not happy with only research work and wanted to work for people at the grassroots.
Reaching Out To Remotest Areas
In 2008, the social entrepreneur decided to work in the country's poorest and most backward areas. "I employed two girls, and set out to help the poor in areas around Noida. We started work in village Gharbara in Gautam Budh Nagar. It was a village suffering several development challenges. Poverty, ignorance, health and sanitation, skills for youth and women, agricultural problems, etc., were the issues faced by the villagers. The community was backwards, where women were facing extreme discrimination and oppression. Literacy levels were too low for women," she shared.
However, there were a lot of challenges waiting for her. Gupta was unable to receive any funds till the end of 2009.
With the start of the first SGSY project, AROH could establish as a social organisation working towards poverty reduction through programs of skill development and job placement for the rural poor. After proving themselves with the first project, AROH got several more in the series.
At the same time, AROH Foundation could venture into the field of Education as one of their projects was approved as a CSR initiative of a large public sector enterprise. This project allowed them to serve nearly 20,000 poor, underprivileged children in the slums of Delhi. The NGO mainstreamed these children in formal schools and improved their education status.
Venturing Into Other Sectors
Besides skill development and education, AROH quickly ventured into the sectors of health and sanitation, renewable energy, natural resource management, etc. With its enriching multi-sectoral experience, AROH Foundation took up Holistic Rural Development Programs in more than 200 villages in Bihar, UP, MP, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Meghalaya, thereby creating model and prosperous, self-sustaining rural communities.
"Working in the social sector has been rewarding for me, as it fulfils my long-cherished dream of helping society. However, there have been daunting challenges. It was a huge challenge to work in the remote, unreached villages, particularly Naxalite affected areas.
AROH took the bold decision to venture into the Red Corridor villages of Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. The field staff and functionaries have gone through the threats of Naxalites. I was personally challenged and threatened by the Naxalites. But we have bravely carried on the work in areas where most needed and came out with significant impact," Gupta recalls.
Leading NGO In India
Despite all the challenges, AROH Foundation has emerged as a leading NGO in India. It has built a good team by inculcating commitment and sincerity towards work as solid values for the organisation. The use of technology to bring transparency and accountability through information sharing and to develop sound systems and policies of internal checks, monitoring and evaluation has helped create goodwill and credibility for the Foundation amongst the stakeholders.
During its journey, AROH Foundation has touched more than 5 Lakh lives through its various programs. Women's empowerment has been a cross-cutting theme and focuses in all its endeavours. The NGO has impacted the lives of more than one lakh women through various interventions. Economic empowerment of India's youth is a must to reap its rich demographic dividend. So far, the Foundation has trained and employed more than 25,000 youth and engaged them in jobs and self-employment. It has also helped the economy by employing nearly 200 full-time people in the organisation.
AROH Foundation has been recognised both nationally and internationally for its significant contribution to the social sector in India. The Foundation is known for its work in impacting all 17 SDGs, for which it received the Best NGO Award from Global Compact India Network in 2019.
"The future of AROH Foundation is no more just what I dream and plan, but it now carries dreams of all the employees and beneficiaries. The need for diversification of serving other varied causes and extending the patronage to the deprived as much as possible is our future ideal. The future plan also comprises issues that need immediate thought and action for the wholesome development of the marginalised sections of the society," Gupta said.
"With its experience, expertise and learning of nearly two decades, AROH has a robust roadmap to establish itself as the largest NGO in its outreach, both nationally and internationally. I feel proud to establish AROH as a creditable institution scaling new heights and working for the empowerment of the poor," she concluded.
K.V. Rabiya, a village woman from Vellilakkadu near Tirurangadi, was conferred with the prestigious Padma Shree award for spreading the wisdom of education to hundreds of illiterate individuals despite being confined to a wheelchair for life.
Excitement reached new peaks in the 56-year-old when she found her name was on the list of Padma Shri awardees announced on January 25 night and said "God is Great", reported The Hindu. Previously, India did celebrate Rabiya in the 1990s and again in the 2000s by presenting many honours on her.
An Inspiration & Fighter
Rabiya had kickstarted a mini literacy campaign back in 1990. However, the Kerala state government later had launched the state literacy mission and decided to make her the mascot of this project. The 56-year-old also built an organisation called "Chalanam", which operates six schools for differently-abled and intellectually disabled kids in the district. Other than this, Rabiya also opened 60 neighbourhood self-help groups for women where they trained them to make carry bags, pickles and other products.
"Getting knowledge is foremost and imparting this to others is equally important. I feel education serves its purpose only if you impart the same to others and empower them," she was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
Other than polio, Rabiya was also afflicted with cancer when she was 32, and her backbone was later affected after she had survived a fall. An inspiration to many, Rabiya's courageous battle against all odds found its way to school textbooks in Kerala. She is also many and has published books, including her autobiography "Swapnangalkku Chirakukalundu" (Dreams have wings).
The 73rd Republic Day on Wednesday, January 26, witnessed its grandest-ever flypast, with 75 aircrafts being part of the celebrations. The occasion was extra special, as the Indian Air Force displayed its tableau during the parade, with India's first woman Rafale fighter jet pilot Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh.
She became the second female fighter jet pilot to be part of the IAF tableau after Flight Lieutenant Bhawna Kanth, the country's first combat pilot, who was part of the 2021 parade.
Service To Nation Since 2017
A native of the Pulwariya area in Varanasi, Singh was inducted into the force in 2017 and was the first woman from her hometown to become a fighter pilot. After completing schooling, Singh enrolled in Banaras Hindu University and joined the 7 UP Air Squadron NCC.
She was later selected through the standard aptitude test and went on to train at the Air Force Academy in July 2016. The fighter pilot was commissioned in the IAF's second batch of women fighter pilots.
Reportedly, Singh received her first training under the mentorship of Wing Commander Varthaman, a Vir Chakra awardee.
Flown Difficult Fighter Aircrafts
Before Rafale, Singh had been flying MiG-21 Bison aircraft since her commissioning, one of the oldest fighter jets and challenging its high take-off and landing speeds.
She completed the conversion training, a mandatory course for pilots switching from flying one aircraft to another. In 2020, Singh became the first woman fighter pilot to fly Rafale, Vogue reported.
The fighter pilot is also a part of the IAF's 17 Squadron, the Golden Arrows, Ambala. The 27-year-old was loaded with praises and blessings on all social media platforms.
Indian Air Force R-Day Parade
This year's IAF theme was - 'Indian Air Force, transforming for the future'. After the march past in 12 rows and eight columns, the tableau came on Rajpath showing scaled-down models of Rafale fighter jet, indigenous light combat helicopter (LCH) and 3D surveillance radar Aslesha MK-1.
The tableau also featured a scaled-down model of MiG-21 aircraft that played a significant role in the 1971 war.