We are Proud of Padmashri Awardee Shanti Devi
We are thrilled to share, Shanti Devi Our Founder Vice-president will receive the Padma Shri this year! Shanti Devi has been a part of Agragamee for more than three decades. She has stood with us through thick and thin, and been witness to Agragamee’s trials and tribulations, providing us guidance and support in the worst of times and helping us navigate troubled waters with strength.
A versatile and multifaceted person, Shanti Devi has spent all her adult life dedicated to the service of tribal women and children of Rayagada and Koraput. She came to Koraput when she was in her teens. At that time, Koraput was one large district. “When I first came to Koraput from Baleswar, I was just 17. Life here was so different from Baleswar that it felt like a dream” she reminisces. ‘We were committed to work, and didn’t think about anything else. “The Government in its wisdom has given me this award, and I accept it, but I am not overly excited. I have worked all my life, and work itself is the reward, I have never looked for anything else” she says.
Born in 1934, Shanti Devi was married to Dr. Ratan Das in 1952. Four months after her marriage she, shifted to Gunpur, which was then part of the undivided Koraput District. With immense commitment, she immersed herself in the land Satyagraha movement and took up the challenge to free the land of tribal farmers which had been grabbed by the landlords.
During this period, she met Sant Vinoba Bhave, and joined the Bhoodan movement, imparting training to Bhoodan workers at Gopalbadi Ashram set up by Malati Devi.
In 1964, she started Seva Samaj to provide shelter to orphaned tribal children in Jabarguda, in Gunpur. Now she runs ashrams for orphaned children in Gunpur, Jabarguda and Padampur.
In true Gandhian spirit, Shanti Appa (Elder sister) as we fondly call her works with her mind and her hands. We spun the thread for our cloth, and exchanged it for our sarees she says. We grew our own cotton, and with home made ginning and carding machines, we cleaned and fluffed them, and rolled it to spin thread She recalls!! “Here take this – this is Chheli Leni cotton seed. It is perennial, and is long staple. It grows in the toughest of conditions” with that, Shanti Appa hands a packet of cotton seeds with fluff still on them. Shanti Appa and Ratan Bhai proudly gifted us their precious box spinning wheel, and taught us to spin. This gift is more precious to us than anything else!
When Shanti Appa broke her leg, and was bed ridden for several months, she didn’t slip into despair, but bought wool and knitted lovely little sweaters booties and caps for all the little infants she knew, and when that task was finished, even though she had recovered by then, she continued to knit, and made elegant sweaters for all her friends!
We are proud to have been associated with Shanti Appa, and know her so closely.