Bhubaneswar, Jan 27: Shantidevi, a mere woman of the suburb of Balasore is now an Indian icon for volunteering selfless service, peace and non-violence. She has been praticising Gandhism in the remote corner of Odisha.
She was presented recently the Padmashree title by the Government India on the occasion of Republic Day, 2021.
Born in Gopalgoan under Balasore town on April 18, 1934 and married to noted social activist, Ratan, Shantidevi was inspired by Gandhian ideal of service to the mankind. She worked in the interior pockets of Koraput, Rayagada and Gunupur to educate the rural poor and bring them to the main stream. The Gandhian lady volunteer worked ceaselessly in tribal belts and fought against malnutrition, illiteracy and many more social evils.
In the first phase she treated thousands of leprosy patients at Sankalapadar near Rayagada. She was the first woman to aware people that ‘leprosy is not acquired for pre-birth sins, rather a disease’.
Later, she joined Binova Bhabe’s Bhoodan movement for the rural landless people in 1956. In order to provide functional literacy to the hill tribes, Shantidevi established Seva Samaj Ashram at Rayagada followed by a long chain of special schools for orphans at Gunpur,Padmapur.Limapada and Jabarguda. Shantidevi experimented the Gandhian philosophy of basic education and endeavoured to bring about socio-economic uplift by teaching agriculture, weaving and craft including spiritual education to the tribal girls.