The Centre’s picks for the prestigious Padma awardees to be announced today on the eve of the Republic Day could see recognition for lesser known people who have made immense contribution to the society.
Among the 120-odd people said to have been shortlisted for the award is Alok Sagar who has lead an anonymous life in the tribal belt of Madhya Pradesh for over three decades now, working for the downtrodden sections of society.
However, Sagar, in conversation with a Hindi news channel, has confirmed that he will not be accepting the award. To him, the acceptance create a sense of inequality among his people.
Dubbed a modern day Gandhi, Sagar has been living in Kochamu in MP's Betul district— a place which has no electricity or roads—for the past 26 years. For the uninitiated, Sagar shot to limelight when it emerged that the man, whom authorities mistook as a sage, was a multifaceted personality with many distinctions to his name – including having taught former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan.
Besides possessing a graduate and masters degrees from IIT Delhi, Sagar has a Ph.D. from Houston University in Texas, US. He returned to India to become a professor at his alma mater where he served for a year.
However, it later dawned upon him that he would be able to better contribute to the growth of the country by working on the grassroot level.
In 1982, Sagar resigned as professor and began working with the tribals in Betul and Hoshangabad districts, helping save the environment — one tree at a time, according to Hindustan Times.
Based in Delhi’s Patparganj, Sagar’s father was an IRS officer (he passed away last year) while his mother was a physics teacher in Miranda House, Delhi University. His brother is a professor in IIT Delhi.
He has planted more than 50,000 trees in Betul district. And in association with the Shramik Adiwasi Sangathan, Sagar works for the welfare of tribals.
Alok can speak many languages and dialects used by tribals in the region. Closely associated with the Shramik Adiwasi Sangathan, he spends most of his time working for their upliftment.
“He is focused about nature and has been educating people on growing trees and taking care of environment. He is a simple man who does what he says and mean,” said Anurag Modi from Shramik Adiwasi Sangathan, who is closely associated with Alok.