Karnataka’s Tulasi Gowda, popularly known as the 'Encyclopedia of Forest' and Harekala Hajjaba are among the Padmashri awardees this year. The Padma awards for the year 2020 were announced on Saturday.
The government of India announces the Padma awards every year on the eve of Republic day. These awards are conferred on personalities who have achieved big in different fields like social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc.
Tulasi Gowda is a folk environmentalist, who has worked hard towards afforestation efforts in her surroundings. She has single-handedly planted more than 1,00,000 trees in Ankola taluk, which is situated in Coastal Karnataka. Though she is unlettered, her knowledge of plants is unmatched, which she used during her job in the forest department, according to The Hindu.
She is a simple person, who lives in a hut in Honalli village and is known for her unending love for trees, and the concern for the environment.
Tulasi Gowda is now nearing 74 and retired from her government position, but she continues her efforts. According to a report by News Karnataka, she continues going around and planting saplings, and caring for them until they can stand on their own.
She is a tribal woman, who belongs to the Halakki tribe. She has expressed outrage at the rampant deforestation in her village due to unchecked development.
She has been previously felicitated several times by Karnataka state and others, for her environmental contributions in her district. She is a Rajyotsava awardee from the state.
Harekala Hajjaba is an orange vendor from Harekala village in Mangaluru, Karnataka, popularly known as ‘Akshara Santa’ or ‘Saint of Letters’. He saved up money from selling oranges and started a primary school to educate the children in his village in Mangaluru, according to a report in the BBC. Having not learnt how to read or write, the motivation to begin a school came from his own inability to talk to a foreigner who asked the price for oranges in English.
Hajjaba started a primary school in his village in 2000 with just 28 students. He then took out loans and used up his savings to buy land for that school. A few years after that he also started a high school for students aged 10 to 14 in the same village. Seeing his zeal to ensure education for the children in his village, philanthropists joined the cause, helping Hajjaba with whatever money they can donate.
Hajjaba was awarded the ‘Person of the year’ by Kannada Prabha newspaper in 2004 and ‘Real Heroes’ award by CNN-IBN in 2009. His life story has also found its way into the syllabus of many universities in Karnataka. He has now been awarded Padma Shri under the ‘Social Work’ category for providing affordable education.
Though announced on January 25 every year, the awards are given to the recipients usually around March or April every year, in a ceremonial event at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.