Padma Awards — one of the highest civilian awards of the country — were announced recently. Felicitated by the President of India, the Padma Awards are given in various disciplines and fields of activities, viz. art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, and civil service.
This year, the President approved the conferment of 119 Padma Awards -- seven Padma Vibhushan, 10 Padma Bhushan and 102 Padma Shri.
Among this list are about 29 women. The list also includes 10 people from the categories of foreigners, NRI, PIO andOCI, and one transgender.
Let us look at some of these amazing women from different walks of life.
Renowned Carnatic musician and playback singer KS Chithra has recorded more than 25,000 songs in many regional languages including Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Oriya, and Urdu, as well as foreign languages like French Latin, Arabic, and Sinhalese. In 1997, she became the first Indian woman to be honoured by the British Parliament’s House of Commons in the UK. The 57-year-old has also received six National Awards, the highest by any female singer in the country.
A political leader, Sumitra Mahajan (77) started her career as a corporator in the Indore Municipal Corporation in 1982. She soon rose through the ranks to serve as speaker of Lok Sabha for five years till she retired in 2019. Sumitra was the longest-serving female Member of Parliament as she represented the Indore constituency of Madhya Pradesh from 1989 to 2019.
Chutni Devi is known as the 'Tigress' of Saraikela was awarded the Padma Shri for single-handedly saving 60 women from witch-hunting. Being into witchcraft herself and later fighting against it, she is now associated with the Flash Organisation. Through family counselling centres, she is making society aware of the evils of witchcraft.
Anitha Pauldurai is a former captain of the Indian women's national basketball team – the youngest one at 19. The sportswoman holds a record 30 medals in national championships from nearly two decades of playing for the Indian Women National team. She is also the first Indian woman to have participated in nine Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) championships.
Bhuri Bai is a Bhil (one of the largest tribal groups in India) artist proficient in Pithora paintings, from Madhya Pradesh. She is known as the first tribal woman artist to popularise the art of Pithora painting. Bhuri has been recognised with many awards including Shikhar Samman, Madhya Pradesh’s highest state honour.
Veteran Table Tennis player Mouma Das has represented India and won medals in multiple Commonwealth and South Asian Games. Mouma, who won the Arjuna Award in 2013, became only the second table tennis player after Achanta Sharath Kamal to win the Padma Shri.
Shanti Devi is known for her philanthropic works for the betterment of orphaned children and distressed women began this journey by setting up 'ashram' at a tribal-dominated village Khambesu Shankalpadar in 1951 along with her husband. She has received many awards for her book ‘Ahinsara Anweshan’ on Vinoda Bhave whose ideologies inspired her. She was even part of Vinoda Bhave's Bhudan movement. Shanti Devi, also known as Koratputia Gandhi, still stays at Gunpur town, and is the founder of 'Seva Samaj' orphanage.
Bombay Jayashri Ramnath
Bombay Jayashri Rammath, a celebrated Carnatic singer has performed in several regional languages like Telugu, Malayalam, and Tamil. Born in Kolkata to well-known musicians Seethalakshmy Subramaniam and NN Subramaniam, she has many awards to her name, including the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Playback and Sangeetha Kalasarathy Award, among others.
At 88, Radhe Devi is still pursuing the pledge she took when she was 25 — designing bridal wear. Her passion for protecting Potloi Setpi weaving is why the nation honoured her with the Padma Shri. Radhe Devi hails from Wangjing Sorokhaibam Leikai in the Thoubal district of Manipur.
Otherwise called ‘Mai’ by the locals, Sindhutai runs an orphanage in Pune called ‘Sanmati Bal Niketan Sanstha.’ Known as the 'Mother of Orphans in her town of Pune, she has adopted over 1,000 orphaned children. The 68-year-old has transformed the lives of these orphans by giving them a home, support and love that they deserve. Incidentally, a biopic called 'Mi Sindhutai Sapkal’ was released in Maharashtra in 2010.
Matha B. Manjamma Jogati
Matha B. Manjamma Jogati is a transgender folk dancer of Jogamma heritage in Karnataka. Manjamma Jogati is the only trans woman to win the Padma Shri award this year. She is the first trans woman President of Karnataka Janapada Academy. Disowned by her family after identifying as a woman in her teenage years and having battled poverty, social discrimination, and rape, Manjamma found solace in mastering Jogati Nritya, Janapada songs, and other rural folk art.
Lakhimi Baruah started the Konoklota Mahila Urban Cooperative Bank in 1998 in Jorhat, Assam, to help women from underprivileged backgrounds become financially independent and secure. Founded in 1998 with an initial capital of Rs 8.46 lakh, it is now a bank run by and for women with a licence from RBI.
A social worker from Aizawl, Sangkhumi Bualchhuak has empowered Mizo women and has played an instrumental role in promoting education, enterprise, and legal reforms for them. Sangkhumi was key to the initiation of many reforms in the Mizo Society, leading to life-changing policies for the upliftment of women in particular, and the society in general.
Anshu Jamsenpa is a Guinness World Record holder mountaineer from Arunachal Pradesh, who scaled world’s highest peak Mount Everest five times — twice in a record shortest time of five days. She also happens to be the only sportsperson from northeast India among 14 personalities for the prestigious award. She received the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award from President Ram Nath Kovind in 2017 and India's Highest Adventure Award in the following year.
Uttar Pradesh’s senior litterateur Usha Yadav has authored more than 100 books, including the story collection 'Khme-piece Sukh', 'Dreams of the Rainbow' and novels 'Prakash Ki Oar' and 'Aankhon Ka Akash'. A PHD-degree alumnus of Kanpur University, Usha credits a major part of her success to the literary environment provided by the city.
Also read: MAKERS 10 of 2020: Women Who Make India
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)