Thu, 08 Jun 2023

New Delhi [India], March 22 (ANI): The Padma awards ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday saw some touching moments with Hirabaiben Ibrahimbhai Lobi, a Padma Shri awardee from Gujarat who has worked extensively for Siddi community and women's empowerment, saying words of appreciation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and stretching out her dupatta in expression of her sentiments as she came near the front row.

President Droupadi Murmu presented the Padma awards at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday evening.

As Hirabaiben Lobi, 70, walked to get the award, she stopped near the row in which PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and several union ministers were seated and were clapping for her.

Lobi, who is President of Advasi Mahila Sangh which is also known as Siddi Woman's Federation, stood there for about 50 seconds and conveyed her sentiments.

"Mere pyaare Narendra Bhai, apne hamari jholi khushiyon se bhar di (Dear Narendra Bhai, you have filled our lives with happiness)," she said, some guests present at the ceremony told ANI.

Lobi stretched out her dupatta expressing her sentiments towards Gujarat's son of the soil for giving recognition to all strata of society, including her community, which was ignored over the years.

"Nobody gave us any recognition and nobody bothered about us till you did and you brought us to the forefront," Lobi is learnt to have said.

PM Modi listened to her with folded hands and expressed his reverence to the Padma awardee.

As she walked to receive the award, Lobi placed both her hands on the shoulders of President Murmu to convey her blessings. Droupadi Murmu is India's first woman President from the tribal community.

Orphaned at a very young age and brought up by her grandparents, Lobi provides education to children of the Siddi community through many balwadis founded by her. Through Mahila Vikas Mandals, she has also worked towards financial independence of women from her community.

Padma awards are seen to have become "people's awards" under the Modi government with a distinct thrust to give recognition to people who have worked at the grassroots to benefit the society or have achieved distinction in their fields.

Siddi community accounts for 98 per cent of population of Jambur, a village in Gir region of Gujarat. Siddis are African tribals who were brought to India as slaves for the ruler of Junagadh around 400 years ago.

The Siddis, one of Gujarat's most backward communities, have spent decades living in the shadows, neglected and ignorant.

Hirabaiben was determined to make a difference in the lives of other women. She is spearheading a silent revolution in 18 Saurashtra villages. Her initiatives include a cooperative movement, family planning, and a small savings club for the Siddis. They are also selling the trademark Siddis vermicompost.

The women's cooperative now also provides loans and raises awareness about health problems. She has also assisted in the construction of a community school for the Siddis and has transformed the lives of over 700 women and children.

Hirbaiben has received several honours and awards. In 2001, she was awarded the Samman Patra by Gujarat Agriculture University in Junagadh and again in 2007 and 2012.

She also got the Women's World Summit Foundation's Prize for Women's Creativity in Rural Living' in 2002 and 'Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar for Outstanding Woman Rural Entrepreneur in 2006:She has donated her prize money to children's schooling and the empowerment of Siddi women.

There has been effort to move away from "VIP and VVIP culture" and achievers from the most remote part of the country have been honoured with Padma awards.

Amongst the common citizens who have been honoured this year is 98-year-old Tula Ram Upreti, a small farmer from Sikkim. He has been conferred with Padma Shri for being a role model in organic farming over the past 70 years.

Retired Army doctor Munishwar Chanddawar (77), who treats his patients at a meagre fee of Rs20 in his native Madhya Pradesh, has also been honoured with Padma award this year. A veteran of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, he has been practising medicine in Jabalpur for over five decades. (ANI)

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