Orange vendor Hajabba earns Padma Shri, read how

Who is Harakala Hajabba?

Harekala Hajabba is a person who hails from a poor background. He was born in the impoverished rural area of New Papdu. He was forced into rolling ‘beedis’, the mini-cigarette famous in the rural folks of South-East Asia. When a flood destroyed his hut, Hajabba moved to Mangalore and started selling oranges from the money he had saved by rolling beedis.

What was the early life of Hajabba?

Forced into labor from a very early age, Hajabba never got a chance to learn. Also, the life of an orange-seller was no better than that of a beedi-roller. The hardships and humiliation that he suffered all through his life made him realize the importance of education and literacy. He was illiterate, but he did not want to see one more from his village to suffer the utmost hardships of life due to lack of proper education.

What was his aim?

With an aim to get a school for his village, Hajabba started saving whatever he could from his small earning as a hawker. After much effort, in 1999, Hajabba’s dream took shape in the form of a small school attached to a mosque in his village.

Earlier, there were only a few students. However, as the number of students increased, Hajabba thought to shift the school to a bigger facility. So, he continued to accumulate every bit he earned towards building a proper school and ensuring the education of the poor children.

How did Hajabba try to secure money?

In 2004, Hajabba bought a small land for the school. However, sooner he came to realize that to build a school would need way more than what he had at his disposal. So Hajabba started approaching people for money. From political leaders to elites, he begged before everyone he found access to. But nothing much came of his attempts to seek help from others. Many would refuse him at once; some would treat him even harshly. It was a most desperate time.

Following such a terrible experience, most of the people would have left the idea and returned to their daily life. But this man, Hajabba, was no ordinary soul. He would not be disheartened even by such appalling and apathetic responses. The reluctance of so many people to support him didn’t come in the way of his ambition.

Did he achieve his mission?

After dedicatedly striving for a long time, saving from his small income and collecting little funds from his customers, and after toiling through one government bench to another, he finally saw the foundation of the ‘Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat Higher Primary School’ in 2004. Hajabba constructed the school in Harekala-Newpadpu village in Mangaluru. Currently, the school has 175 underprivileged students from the village.

What did Hajabba receive for his achievement?

This orange vendor from Karnataka has received Padma Shri Award, India’s second-highest civilian award, from the President of India in Delhi on Monday. He said that his desire to bring revolution in education in his village came to his mind in 1978 when a foreigner asked him the cost of orange. The Padma Awardee told ANI, “I only know Kannada, not English or Hindi. So, I was depressed as I could not help the foreigner. I wondered about constructing a school in my village“.

What is Hajabba’s new mission?

Still working as a street hawker, Hajabba is now on a new mission. That is to get a college for the villagers. As there is no college near the village, and most of the students cannot bear the expense of going to the city for higher studies, particularly the girls. Seeing this, Hajabba is in talks with several officials to establish a college. This is to assure that the aspiring youngsters of his village can study further and make a career for themselves.

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