Social activist S Ramakrishnan has been awarded with India’s fourth highest civilian honour of ‘Padma Shri’. The Tirunelveli-native who was paralysed neck down in an injury went onto aid in the rehabilitation of differently abled individuals.
S Ramakrishnan started the Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA) in 1981 in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli, with a focus to cater to disability management focusing on rural areas. He has been paralysed neck down and has been on the wheelchair for the past 44 years.
The organisation has been known for several of its social outreach work, including conducting polio administration camps in villages, integrated schools where differently children study among their physically abled peers.
A detailed profile of him in The Hindu says that Ramakrishnan had gone to Bengaluru in 1975 when he was 20 years old to pursue a career in the Navy. A fourth year engineering student, his eyes were set on a job with the Naval forces. After four days of interviews, on the fifth day, as part of negotiating obstacles, he was asked to leap 15 feet from a tree. The jump however fractured his cervical spine, crushing his dreams of a career in the Navy.
After months of medical treatment and help, Ramakrishnan learnt to acquire 'wheelchair independence'. He then set up a school in a small piece of land gifted by his parents. The school initially had five differently abled children. But very soon, word about Ramakrishnan's good work spread all across.
“Once I realized there was no denying my condition, I was keen to know what was in store for me. I wanted to continue living life to the fullest," he told The Hindu.
The school spread its wings and became a big movement in the next few decades and now has children from more than 300 places in rural Tamil Nadu.
He received the Dr Ambedkar Award from former President Pranab Mukherjee in 2017 for Amar Seva Sangam. The following year in 2018, he was conferred with a Lifetime Achievement award for his work.