Mangaluru: Harekala Hajba, selected for the Padma Shri Award 2020, received the coveted award from the President of India Ram Nath Kovind at the award ceremony held at the Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi this morning (November 8, 2021). According to Hajba, this award will be added to the over 500 awards/honours he has received in the past, but the coveted Padma Shri award will be displayed prominently in his home.
Hajba and his nephew left for Delhi from Mangaluru on Sunday, 7 November, where they were accommodated at the five-star Hotel Ashok. Dakshina Kannada district administration and MP Nalin Kumar Kateel were in charge of the visit of both. Hajba, an orange seller, started a revolution in education by using his savings to open a school in his hometown of Harekala and contributing to its growth year after year. The Padma Shri award for Hajba was announced on January 25, 2020, but the ceremony was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
Known as ‘Akshara Santa’ (Saint of Letters), 65-year-old illiterate fruit vendor Hajba was successful in setting up a school for the children of his village in New Padpu, Harekala, about 35 km from Mangaluru. He was so frustrated that he could not study because his village lacked a school that he decided to take it up as a challenge, and his journey to build a school in Harekala began in 1995. He did a lot to secure the school land and get permission from the education department. In 1999, when the Dakshina Kannada district panchayat sanctioned a school, his dream came true.