Karimul Haque and Nivedita Bhide have nothing in common. Neither education, family background, resources at disposal nor even geographical location, but one thing that both have common is their willingness to serve. There is very little chance that you may have met or read about Nivedita Raghunath Bhide, a social worker, associated with Kanyakumari-headquartered Vivekananda Kendra. Similarly, there is very little chance that you may have met or heard about Karimul Haque, a tea garden worker from West Bengal. But they represent the ordinary Indians with extraordinary capabilities.
“On reaching Kanyakumari, after seeing people of India reeling under poverty and ignorance, Swami Vivekananda concluded that a real purposeful life starts with the question – What can I do for my country?”, Bhide told the students of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) at Indore on 12th January, 2013. Hindustan Times, Indore reported that Bhide, national vice president of Vivekananda Kendra, further described Vivekananda’s journey through India before he reached Kanyakumari in 1892 and then posed a few questions to the impressionable IIM students.
She herself had left her home in Maharashtra to be a full time worker at Kanyakumari and dedicated her life for social service under the banner of the organization started as a living memorial to Swami Vivekananda. An ordinary Indian doing extraordinary work!
For Karimul Haque, who lost his mother 15 years ago to the absence of a vehicle to take her to the nearest hospital, a chance few years later became his mission. His coworker collapsed in the field in front of him, prompting Haque to tie him to his back and take him on a bike to Jalpaiguri Hospital, 50 kms away. Of course, his coworker’s life was saved.
Haque’s two-wheeler has been the only lifeline for 20-odd villages in and around Dhalabari in that district, part of West Bengal. The area lacks basic healthcare facilities and as reported by Hindustan Times ferrying a patient to the hospital in an ambulance is a luxury mostly elusive for a majority in the region. Haque has also started providing basic care at the people’s doorstep after taking intensive training from local doctors. He has single handedly saved over 3000 lives on his mission. So much for an ordinary tea garden worker!
Element of public service, a showcase for ‘excellence plus’
That is what makes Haque and Bhide special. That is what makes them stand out in the crowd of millions and millions of ordinary Indians. And that is what got them selected from more than 18,000 nominations for Padma Awards.
The ‘Selection Criterion’ as mentioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs for Padma awards. “While no rigid criteria or trenchant formula for selection is applied by the Padma Awards Committee, it looks for life time achievements of an individual while making a selection. There ought to be an element of public service in the achievements of the person to be selected. The award is given for ‘special services’ and not merely for long services. It should not be merely excellence in a particular field, but the criteria has to be ‘excellence plus’.” (Emphasis added).
Indeed Haque and Bhide along with several of the unsung heros were honoured this year, in what is being labeled as a clear departure from the past. For instance, 1925 born V Koteswaramma. She has had an incredible journey from a small village to an eminent person running educational institutions. She lost her mother when she was just two.
(To be continued)
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