The efforts of a fruit-seller in providing education to children of his village has earned him an honorary Padma Shri Award, one of he highest civilian awards given by the Indian government.
A day ahead of the 71st Republic Day the government announced the list of the 21 recipients of the Padma Shri this year. And Dakshina Kannada-based Harekala Hajabba made it to the list.
The orange seller, who hails from the village of Newpadapu near Mangalore, has no formal education yet has been successful in establishing a school for the children of his village.
The news was shared on Twitter by an IFS officer, Praveen Kaswan, who said, "This fruit seller from Dakshin Kannada is educating poor children in his village of Newpadapu from a decade in a mosque."
He further added that, Hajabba received the news when he was standing "in a line on a ration shop and authorities informed him that he got #Padma Shri."
Harekala Hajabba was in a line on a ration shop when authorities informed him that he got #Padma Shri. This fruit seller from Dakshin Kannada is educating poor children in his village of Newpadapu from a decade in a mosque. Doing all the efforts including spending his savings. pic.twitter.com/rufL3RZ15o— Parveen Kaswan, IFS (@ParveenKaswan) January 26, 2020
According to reports, Hajabba revealed that it was an encounter with two foreign tourists once that initially led him in take up the initiative of opening a new school.
Hajabba was asked by the foreign couple the price of an orange in English. Unable to speak the foreign language, he failed to explain them the price following which the couple left without any further communication. Hurt by the incident, Hajabba decided to provide opportunities to learn English and get education to the children of his school so that no one else had to face what he had faced.
Speaking to News Minute, he said, "I realised the manner in which communication can help one to progress in life, and at the same time bring people together."
According to BBC, Hajabba's village did not have a school until 2000, when he had saved enough money from his meager earnings to set one up by himself. As the number of students grew, he even took out loans and used his savings to buy land for the school.
With an income of just Rs 150 per day, Hajabba received very little support from locals and authorities, but his determination saw him open a primary school with 28 students in a madrassa - a Muslim educational institution generally connected to a mosque.
As the number of students increased over the years, Hajaba had to apply for loans, mop the school premises an even boil water for the children and undertake various other activities all by himself.
But all his efforts combined with the persuasion of local authorities were rewarded when he received a phone call from the Union Home Ministry on Saturday morning.
"They spoke in Hindi, I could not understand, but later someone from the DK DC’s (Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner) office told me that I was selected for Padma Shri award. I could not believe it or dream of it, but I was happy,” he said to the News Minute