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Tribal medicine expert, freedom fighter among Padma Shri awardees

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New Delhi: A 75-year-old tribal woman who prepares herbal medicines to cure snake and insect bites, a 99-year-old freedom fighter and a nanogenarian Tibetan healer were among eminent personalities selected on Thursday for Padma Shri — the fourth highest civilian award in India.

Others chosen include scientist Arvind Gupta, who has inspired students to learn science from trash, Gond artist Bhajju Shyam and M.R. Rajagopal, an expert on pain management called “medical messiah” for terminally ill patients.

R. Vasudevan, known as plastic road maker of India; Murlikant Pedkar, India’s first paralympic gold medalist in 1972; Subasini Mistry, a poor woman activist who built a humanity hospital for poor in West Bengal; Sulagatti Narasimma, 90, a farm labourer providing midwifery services in backward areas of Karnataka; Yeshi Dhoden, a 90-year-old Tibetan monk healer; and Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan. a Tamil folk art exponent were among the others selected for Padma Shri awards.

Others named are: Rani and Abhay Bang, a doctor couple from Gadchiroly in Maharashtra, Gandhian from Nagaland Lentina Ao Thakkar, wildlife conservationist and herpetlogist Romulus Whitaker, Sampath Ramteke, sickle cell torch bearer, and Sandukruit, an opthalmologist.

According to a Home Ministry official, Lakshmikutty, the tribal woman from Kerala who prepares 500 herbal medicines from memory has helped thousands who had suffered snake and insect bites. She fondly called “vanamuthassi — grandmother of jungle”.

The freedom fighter, Sudhanshu Biswas, was shot at and jailed during India’s independence movement.

Biswas runs schools, orphanages and dispensaries in rural West Bengal. He has also founded Ramakrishna Sevaashram and set up free schools for poor children.

Gupta, 64, from Maharashtra has been for the last 40 years inspiring students to learn science from trash and using household materials and garbage as building blocks for scientific experiments. He has travelled to 3,000 schools and made 6,200 short films on toy-making in 18 languages.

The IIT-Kanpur alumnus also provides free books in 12 languages. Gupta has hosted a popular science show “Tarang” on Doordarshan in 1980s.

Shyam, 46, from Madhya Pradesh, is an internationally acclaimed artist of Gond — a traditional painting style of his home state. He is known for his art work of depicting life in Europe through painting. He has illustrated and contributed to eight books, including the “London Jungle Book” that sold 30,000 copies and was published in five foreign languages.

Rajagopal, 70, runs a palliative care unit for specialized medical and nursing care for people with life-limiting illnesses or terminal illnesses. He has specialized in pain-free neonatal surgeries and brought down post-surgical neonatal deaths from 75 to 28 per cent in 1980s.

He is credited to have set up India’s first palliative care unit in Kozhikode in Kerala in 1993 and introduced safe anesthesiology procedures. He is ranked among top 30 anesthesiologist globally. (IANS)