Harekala Hajabba, an orange vendor in Mangaluru who saved money to build a school in his village, was presented with the Padma Shri by President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday, November 8. The 68-year-old fruit seller was earlier named for India's fourth-highest civilian honour for educating poor children in his village of Newpadapu through his organisation for over a decade. Hajabba, who never received any formal education himself, sells fruits at the Hampankatta market in Mangaluru and was recognised for sharing the proceeds of his earnings for the maintenance and upkeep of the school.
Hajabba initially convinced locals and well-wishers to help him to set up the school at a local mosque. He would sweep the school premises, boil water for the children to drink and make repeated requests with the Zilla Panchayat office in Dakshina Kannada, about 25 kilometers from his native village, to formalise the educational facilities.
In 2008, thanks to the efforts of Hajabba, a Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat Higher Primary School was created at Newpadupu village. He also set up an organisation to streamline the funding of the school, while continuing to ensure that students and faculty had all the facilities they needed
In January last year, after he was named as a recipient, Hajabba had told TNM that he wished to set up a pre-university college in the same premise for the children of his village. “I hope the government starts a PU college also, so that students can continue their education. Mostly, they discontinue after Class 10, as higher educational institutes are in the city,” he said.
A well-known face locally, Hajabba’s life story is already a part of the undergraduate program at Mangalore University and he has already received several local awards
There were two Padma awards ceremonies on Monday, November 8, for the years 2020 and 2021 held in the morning and evening. Among the awards given away were seven Padma Vibhushan, 16 Padma Bhushan and 122 Padma Shri awards for the years 2020 and 2021. The recipients were honoured by President Ram Nath Kovind in the presence of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah among others.