Honour for 5 Indians who made a difference

They are ordinary citizens who live ordinary lives, but in an extraordinary way. They come from different parts of the country, have different professions, but all share a common vision for a better India. The Civil Society Hall of Fame, now in its fourth year, will on Thursday honour five such citizens who make a difference in the lives of those around them. Mostly invisible, these Indians work at the ground level and abhor labels like “unsung heroes”.
An initiative of Civil Society magazine, which has completed nine years, the Civil Society Hall of Fame is held in association with the Azim Premji Foundation to recognise contributions by citizens in building a modern and inclusive India. The rules are clear: no one can apply; no one can be nominated. One has to be identified through one’s work.
This year’s winners have their own extraordinary stories to tell, be it the barefoot vet from Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, the courageous woman sarpanch who hails from Rajasthan or the wired hero from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.
Take Boya Pedda Rajanna. He happily takes up the role of a vet in the absence of veterinary facilities at Golla, his village in Anantapur district. He claims his amazing knowledge of animal medicine is hereditary.
A vet for 30 years, Rajanna treats animals with herbs and can cure a range of animal illnesses, including indigestion, stomach inflammation, fever, mastitis and even fractures. Most villagers want him to visit their homes to treat sick animals.
Transport isn’t always there, but Rajanna doesn’t mind walking miles to help animals in need.
Naurti Bai’s life is another inspiring story. A dalit from the Regar community, she has fought for the rights of women for three decades. She taught herself to read and write first, then learnt to use computers, which has served her well as a sarpanch after winning the local election in 2010. Her advice to the young: “Go into the world with the confidence you are the best.”
It is this confidence that helped her preside over a village dominated by 400 upper-caste jat families.
Dr Chiranjeeb Kakoty dreamt as a child of becoming a doctor. From providing basic education on drug abuse to slumdwellers in Guwahati in 1998, he began a lifelong mission to fight HIV/AIDS and educate people about reproductive and child health.
For gynaecologist Evita Fernandez, Hyderabad’s Fernandez Hospital, started by her parents in 1948, is a battleground. She has worked with HIV-positive pregnant women since 1994.
Her hospital, though a private enterprise, is not run for profit alone. No one is turned away if fees can’t be paid. In 2008, she started a nursing school for girls from tribal groups where they get free education and lodging.
When it comes to fighting corruption, a simple Google search did the trick for Sanjay Sahni, a school dropout, who leads a campaign against NREGA corruption in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. His is a story of empowerment through technology. At 27, he is an unlikely messiah to the people of his village, who now get 100 days of work as promised by the government and also get paid, thanks to Sanjay’s gutsy initiative.

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