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Rising India: Celebrating India's unsung heroes

From the toymaker of Ettikoppaka, Andhra Pradesh, to a musician who transcends religion, to India's first solar-powered village, and more, these heroes are quietly and determinedly transforming the country around us

Published: May 31, 2023 05:58:34 PM IST
Updated: May 31, 2023 08:09:12 PM IST

Rising India: Celebrating India's unsung heroesUnsung heroes can be found in every corner of India, and it’s time we told their stories. From the toymaker of Ettikoppaka, Andhra Pradesh, to a musician who transcends religion, to India’s first solar-powered village, and more, these heroes are quietly and determinedly transforming the country around us.

The toymaker of Ettikoppaka

C.V. Raju has received a Padma Shri for helping preserve the art of making Etikoppaka toys using non-toxic paints. C.V. Raju, a grassroots innovator from Etikoppaka village, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, has received the Padma Shri award for his efforts in preserving the traditional art of making Etikoppaka toys. Raju has explored various plant sources to create non-toxic paints and natural dyes for these wooden toys. This traditional method, which had defined the craft community of the Etikoppaka village, was slowly fading away. However, Raju’s efforts have helped revive the dying art and provide sustainable livelihoods for the artisans. The use of eco-friendly materials has also made these toys safe for children to play with. Raju’s dedication and innovative spirit have earned him national recognition, including mention in the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat speech. His work is an inspiration to all those looking to preserve India’s rich cultural heritage.

Angel on the Road

Pankaj Tarai has helped hundreds of accident victims, becoming an inspiration for all. Pankaj Kumar Tarai founded Devadutt Sangathan in 2015 to rescue accident victims in Jagatsinghpur district. Since then, the 38-year-old and his team of 25 volunteers have rescued 400 accident victims, of whom 300 have survived. Pankaj spends 25% of his monthly income to help the injured and has also created a WhatsApp group of volunteers, police, and fire station personnel to coordinate aid efforts. The group doesn’t charge victims or their families for their work. They have saved hundreds of accident victims in the past 16 years.

A musician who transcends religion

Sunita Jhingran is a singer who worships Hindu gods and Shia Imam Hussain. Sunita Jhingran, a renowned classical music singer best known for her thumri, khayal, dadra, and ghazal, is also keeping up the traditions of her forefathers as a Hussaini Brahmin. Hussaini Brahmins worship both Hindu gods and Imam Hussain, the third Shia Imam in Islam. Jhingran believes that humanity is the greatest of all religions, and her way of promoting love and respect for all is through her music. She attends ‘Majlis’ and recites elegies during the month of Muharram to carry forward the tradition she learned during her childhood.

Rising India, Real Heroes: A Library in the Forest

A school teacher and tea shop owner have accumulated over 1,000 books for residents of a remote village to read. In a remote village called Edamalakkudy in Idukki, Kerala, a small library has become a second source of information for the residents. Akshara Library was started by PV Chinnathambi, a tea shop owner, and PK Muralidharan, a school teacher. It began in a small corner of Chinnathambi’s tea shop in 2012. The duo managed to put together a collection of 150 books. Today, the library has over 1,000 books spanning across genres by popular Malayalam and Tamil writers. Chinnathambi and Muralidharan don’t charge any library fees. PM Narendra Modi had praised Akshara during his radio show Mann ki Baat in 2019.

The ‘Gocrete’ Revolutionary

In Rajasthan, eco-friendly Vedic plaster and ‘gocrete’ bricks have gained popularity due to Dr. Shiv Darshan Malik. Shiv Darshan Malik, a former lecturer from Bikaner in Rajasthan, has developed Vedic Plaster and Gocrete Bricks made from cow dung, soil, and other natural materials as an alternative to concrete. Concrete is a major contributor to climate change, generating a significant carbon footprint and producing non-recyclable debris. Dr. Malik’s Vedic Plaster, which replaces the conventional layer used in concrete structures for smooth walls, is breathable and keeps rooms cooler. Meanwhile, his Gocrete bricks can prevent up to 70% of heat radiation and have environmentally friendly qualities. Dr. Malik has tied up with 15 dealers across India. He is also running courses where he teaches villagers in Rajasthan how to create eco-friendly bricks.

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