Daripalli Ramaiah

Man with a green thumb: The Padma awardee who planted 10 million saplings

Daripalli Ramaiah

In his village Reddipalle in Telangana’s Khamam district, Daripalli Ramaiah is known popularly as “Chettu (tree) Ramaiah” or “Vanajeevi (forester) Ramaiah”.
This quiet and unassuming 70-year old, who was once heckled as “a mentally unstable man”, has suddenly become a celebrity after he was chosen for the Padma Shri award this year—all for his single-minded devotion to planting saplings for a greener landscape in the area.
Though Ramaiah hasn’t kept a record of how many saplings he has planted, he says the number would have crossed 10 million or almost one tree for every third citizen of Telangana.
“Planting saplings is not just a hobby for me, but a passion,” he says. “Wherever I found a barren land in my area, I plant a tree. My objective is to see that every sapling that I plant survives. Even if one plant wilts and dies, I feel as if I have lost my life.”
His wife Janamma recalls how locals used to make fun of him for carrying plant saplings and seeds on his bicycle.
“He used to pedal several kilometres to a barren spot where he would plant saplings and sow seeds. He was confident that the area would turn green some day,” she recalls.
His small two-bedroom house in the village is like a mini-museum with billboards, placards and flex banners containing slogans highlighting the importance of tree plantation. When he travels, he sports a board around his neck like a scarf with the slogan: “Vriksho Rakshati Rakshitaha” (Save trees, it will save you).
“I don’t know whether God is pleased with breaking a coconut, but I am sure He will be immensely pleased if we plant a tree,” Ramaiah says.
Be it a marriage, or a birthday, or a wedding anniversary, the couple has made it a habit of gifting saplings. “We have sold off our three-acre land to mobilise money for buying seeds and saplings,” Ramaiah says.
Ramaiah discontinued his education after class 10, but he has not given up his reading habit. Wherever he comes across articles on trees and tree-plantation, he makes it a point to obtain the clippings and preserve them. He also pastes them on boards that adorn some of the walls of his residence.
Besides several state and national awards in recognition of his green campaign, the septuagenarian was conferred with honorary doctorate by Academy of Universal Global Peace. On the second Telangana Formation Day celebrations on June 2, 2016, the Telangana government gave him a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh.
“My responsibility has gone up with the Padma Shri. I will continue this campaign till my last breath. I will be happy if I am able to inspire at least one crore people, so that each of them plants one tree each,” Ramaiah says.

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Achievers… Gagandeep Kaur


A web developer with a difference ,Gagandeep Kaur began her career with Almanak Enterprises, maintaining and testing the website www.ourcivilsociety.com the organisation also edited and established the Audio books recording studio of the associated NGO-DISHA(The Harbinger of social change and development).Later was selected by an industrial unit –Gilard Electronics at Mohali,web developer to work on the several websites of the company.Inspite of her challenges stricken by Cerebral Palsy,Gagandeep Kaur boldly faced the society and left behind many of her able bodied classfellows by scoring more than 75% marks in matriculation ,higher secondary and B.Tech .Later she undertook certification course in PHP.With her dedication and focused hardwork ,Gagandeep Kaur is all set to prove an asset to her family and the society

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Luminaries: Amte, Prakash


Hidden amid the dazzling human mosaic of India are millions of tribal people. For centuries, they have lived apart in remote highlands and forests. The Madia Gonds, for example, occupy 150 square kilometers of dense forest in eastern Maharashtra, bordering Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh states. In a thousand isolated villages, they survive by hunting and gathering and shifting cultivation. When Prakash Amte and Mandakini Amte arrived in their midst thirty-four years ago, the region had no modern services. Government officials considered it wild and served there only reluctantly. By contrast, the Amtes, both of them medical doctors, came by choice. Prakash Amte grew up in Anandwan, an ashram and rehabilitation center for leprosy patients in Maharashtra founded by his father, the renowned Gandhian humanitarian Murlidhar Devidas Amte, or Baba Amte. Prakash was busy with postgraduate surgical studies in Nagpur when, in 1974, he volunteered to take over a new project begun by Baba Amte among the Madia Gonds. He and his wife Mandakini abandoned their urban practices and, in a leap of faith, moved to remote Hemalkasa. The young couple settled in a doorless hut without a telephone or electricity or privacy. They practiced medicine beside the road and warmed themselves by a wood fire at night. The Madia Gonds, shy people and suspicious of outsiders, spurned their help at first. Prakash and Mandakini learned their language and patiently gained their trust. The miraculous cures of an epileptic boy with terrible burns and a man near death from cerebral malaria turned the tide. “Once a patient is cured,” says Prakash, “he comes back and brings four new patients.”

Beginning in 1975, Swissaid provided funds to build and equip a small hospital in Hemalkasa. There Prakash and Mandakini performed surgery and treated malaria, tuberculosis, and dysentery, burns and animal bites. To conform to tribal sensibilities, they placed most of the hospital’s facilities out of doors, beneath the trees. They charged nothing. Illiteracy had made the Madia Gonds easy prey for corrupt forest officers and other greedy outsiders. The Amtes helped them assert their rights and intervened to mediate disputes and rid the area of abusive officials. In 1976, they opened a school. The Madia Gonds were reluctant to send their children but, in time, the school prospered and became a center for both academic and vocational education. Prakash and Mandakini’s own children were educated there. The Amtes have used the school at Hemalkasa to introduce the Madia Gonds to settled agriculture-growing vegetables, fruits, and irrigated grains organically-and to encourage them to conserve forest resources. This includes wild animals, a tribal dietary staple. The Amtes’ popular animal orphanage at Hemalkasa promotes the survival of animals as part of nature’s balance. Simplicity and respect guide the Amtes’ work with the Madia Gonds. Prakash wears only a singlet and white shorts as he goes about his work, so as not to identify himself with “well-dressed” outsiders. Where applicable, the couple incorporates tribal cures in their medical practice. In school, children perform tribal songs and dances.

Today, the Amtes’ hospital has fifty beds, a staff of four doctors, and treats forty thousand patients a year free of charge. It is a regional center for mother-child welfare and health education. Its “barefoot doctors” bring first aid to outlying villages. The Amtes’ school, meanwhile, has grown to six hundred students and is comprehensive. Among its graduates are the Madia Gonds’ first doctors and lawyers and teachers as well as officials, office workers, and police. “More than 90 percent of the students have come back to serve in the community, including my sons,” says Prakash, reflecting on his and Mandakini’s legacy. “Maybe it’s the way we have led our lives.” In electing Prakash Amte and Mandakini Amte to receive the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes their enhancing the capacity of the Madia Gonds to adapt positively in today’s India, through healing and teaching and other compassionate interventions.

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Luminaries: Kiran Bedi


No social relationship in Asia is more fraught with ambiguity than that between the police and the people. Called upon to maintain order and public safety, and to manage the region’s paralyzing traffic, the police provide essential civilizing services. Yet, nearly everywhere their reputation is tarnished by incompetence and abuses, large and small. For too many people, the police are not a positive good, only a necessary evil. KIRAN BEDI, India’s highest ranking female police officer and currently Delhi’s inspector general of prisons, believes the police can do better. Taught by her unconventional parents to compete and “to think equally,” BEDI excelled both at school and at tennis, the family passion. She sailed through college and a masters degree and, in 1972, at the age of twenty-two, won the women’s lawn tennis championship of Asia. That same year she entered the police academy and, in 1974, became the first woman to enter the elite Indian Police Service. Assigned to the capital city, BEDI rose rapidly in the ranks, winning national acclaim—and a presidential award—in 1978 by single-handedly driving off a band of club-and-sword-wielding demonstrators with her police baton. As deputy commissioner of police in Delhi’s West and North Districts, BEDI posted constables in blue-and-white “beat boxes” where citizens could consult them daily. She redirected former bootleggers to honest livelihoods by arranging friendly loans and assistance. Women’s peace committees, set up at her initiative, promoted neighbourhood harmony. As community participation rose, crimes fell. Observing the link between drug addiction and chronic criminality, BEDI set up community-supported detoxification clinics, a model she later developed for wider application as deputy director of the Narcotics Control Bureau.

As New Delhi’s traffic chief, her meticulous planning and ruthlessly impartial enforcement of the rules kept the capital’s motley caravanserai of vehicles moving at the 1982 Asian Games— although she admits she made some enemies in the process.

In 1993 BEDI became inspector general of prisons (Delhi) and took charge of Tihar, India’s largest prison complex. In this brutally overcrowded purgatory dwelled more than 8,000 prisoners, 90 percent of whom were unconicted and merely awaiting trial. BEDI rapidly transformed Tihar. Today its inmates follow a positive regimen of work, study, and play. Illiterate prisoners learn to read and write. Others earn higher degrees from cooperating colleges. In prison workshops, prisoners keep their skills tuned and earn wages to save in Tihar’s new bank. Through their panchayats (elected councils), inmates share responsibility for community discipline and for organizing games and entertainment. In yoga classes they learn meditation techniques to still anger and improve concentration. Complaints placed in the mobile petition box go directly to the top and are taken seriously. Tihar is a different world today. In it BEDI’s charges are being imbued with positive attitudes and practical skills for life beyond the walls.

In all of BEDI’s innovations there is a pattern: each one seeks to break down adversarial relations between the police and the community, and each one seeks to replace the hard hand of punishment with the healing hand of rehabilitation. The discipline, confidence, and competitive spirit of BEDI’s youth remain with her at age forty-five. She is impatient and inclined to buck the system. “It is tough to go against the wave,” she says, “but at least you reach where nobody else can.”

In electing KIRAN BEDI to receive the 1994 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her building confidence in India’s police through dynamic leadership and effective innovations in crime control, drug rehabilitation, and humane prison reform.

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LUMINARIES:Mother Teresa


Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. She knew she had to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. After a few months’ training in Dublin she was sent to India, where on May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun. From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Although she had no funds, she depended on Divine Providence, and started an open-air school for slum children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was also forthcoming. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work. On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Holy See to start her own order, “The Missionaries of Charity”, whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by a decree of Pope Paul VI.

Today the order comprises Active and Contemplative branches of Sisters and Brothers in many countries. In 1963 both the Contemplative branch of the Sisters and the Active branch of the Brothers was founded. In 1979 the Contemplative branch of the Brothers was added, and in 1984 the Priest branch was established.

The Society of Missionaries has spread all over the world, including the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. They provide effective help to the poorest of the poor in a number of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes such as floods, epidemics, and famine, and for refugees. The order also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where they take care of the shut-ins, alcoholics, homeless, and AIDS sufferers.

The Missionaries of Charity throughout the world are aided and assisted by Co-Workers who became an official International Association on March 29, 1969. By the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries. Along with the Co-Workers, the lay Missionaries of Charity try to follow Mother Teresa’s spirit and charism in their families.

Mother Teresa’s work has been recognised and acclaimed throughout the world and she has received a number of awards and distinctions, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding (1972). She also received the Balzan Prize (1979) and the Templeton and Magsaysay awards.


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