Traditional medicine practitioner, social worker, Kathak doyen chosen for Padma Shri awards

NewsDrum Desk
New Update

Narayanpur/ Jashpur/ Raigarh, Jan 26 (PTI) Hemchand Manjhi, a 72-year-old traditional medicine practitioner renowned for his stellar work for the past 50 years from a remote village in Chhattisgarh's Naxal-affected Narayanput district, was among the three persons chosen for the Padma Shri awards from the state.

The other two personalities who will be bestowed with the nation's fourth highest civilian award are social worker Jageshwar Yadav (67) from Jashpur and 87-year-old Kathak doyen Ram Bareth from Rajgarh.

After the Padma list was announced by the Union government on Thursday on the eve of Republic Day, Manjhi's house in Narayanpur saw a steady stream of visitors, including politicians.

Manjhi, who shifted to Naraynpur from his native Chhote Dongar village amid Naxal threats, told PTI he was very happy for the recognition by way of the Padma Shri.

At the age of 20, "Mataji" (goddess) appeared in his dreams and showed him medicinal plants, which triggered him to look for them in order to heal people, Manjhi said.

"Allopathy at the time was not very popular and doctors were not available in our village and adjoining areas. After gaining knowledge of medicinal plants, I started serving people. I didn't charge fees earlier but now take a nominal amount," he said.

"I mix 20-25 herbs to prepare medicines. Patients from Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and other states apart from various districts of Chhattisgarh come for treatment. Most of the patients come for treatment of cancer," Manjhi said.

Asked about Naxal claims that he got money for helping the administration get the Aamdai Ghati iron ore project in Narayanpur operational, Manjhi said he has already told villagers he had no connection to the work.

Some villagers were deliberately complaining against him to Naxalites, who have earlier thrown pamphlets in public with death threats for him, Manjhi said.

Incidentally, Manjhi's nephew Komal Manjhi was hacked to death by Naxalites on December 9 last year after accusing him of acting as an agent for Aamdai Ghati iron ore mine and making huge money.

Manjhi was then asked by the police to shift to Narayanpur.

"I am pained that patients who come from far and don't have knowledge about my current location go to my village and then come to Narayanpur for treatment. They have to face trouble. I want to serve people from my village itself," he said.

"I have requested the Narayanpur Superintendent of Police to assign me two security guards so that I can go to my village for practice in the day and later in the night I can sleep at the office of Sub Divisional Officer of Police in the area," Manjhi added.

Social worker Jageshwar Yadav, who too will be bestowed with the Padma Shri, has been working since 1980s for the upliftment of the Birhor and Pahadi Korva, mainly those from the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), in north Chhattisgarh.

"I learnt about the news of the award from chief minister Vishnu Deo Sai and BJP MLA Gomti Sai. I am very happy," he said. On Friday morning, a large crowed gathered at his "kutcha" house in Bhitghara village in Badalkhol wildlife sanctuary of Jashpur to congratulate him.

Yadav, popularly called 'Birhor Bhai', said, "Birhor was a nomadic tribe who wandered here and there and mainly depended on hunting of wild animals for food. Their condition was very painful as they didn't have houses to live in, food to eat and clothes to wear. All these things compelled me to work for their upliftment and associate them with the mainstream of society." In undivided Madhya Pradesh, the then government tried to settle the Birhor tribe, who lived in dense forests under trees, in settlements but they failed to integrate and got left behind in the race for development, Yadav claimed.

In order to win their trust, Yadav said he quit wearing footwear and started sleeping on the ground like Birhors, besides setting up an ashram with the support of the administration in Jashpur to promote literacy and awareness towards healthcare among members of the Birhor and Pahadi Korva communities.

Yadav said his efforts yielded results and gradually Birhors started becoming aware towards better living conditions, education and health.

"Now their situation has transformed as they live in settlements, have access to education, health and other facilities. Even the government has been providing certain facilities including land titles, houses and agriculture implements, to them. Some Birhor people have even got government jobs and most are going to schools," he said.

Kathak Guru of Raigarh Gharana Pt. Ramlal Bareth was also selected for Padma Shri award in the field of art.

Bareth was interested in Kathak since his childhood. He was also 'guru' at Pt Ramlal Chakradhar Nritya Kendra Bhopal from 1981 to 2012.

He has performed in more than 100 national programs of art, dance and music. He has taught Kathak to more than 400 students and is associated with Kartik Ram Kathak Nritya Kendra, Bilaspur.

Bareth's daughter Meena and sons Bhupendra and Pradeep have also been carrying forward the tradition of Kathak.

"It is a matter of pride. It is an honour to my contribution and hard work towards Kathak of Raigarh Gharana," Bareth said. PTI COR TKP BNM BNM