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Harekala Hajabba, an orange vendor from Mangaluru receives Padma Shri who built a school with his life savings

The 66-year-old wanted to change that because his village lacked a school.

Harekala Hajabba, an orange vendor from Mangaluru receives Padma Shri who built a school with his life savings
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Harekala Hajabba, a fruit vendor from Mangaluru, Karnataka, wore a basic white cotton shirt and dhoti when he walked into Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday to accept the Padma Shri award (November 8). The audience erupted in applause when President Ram Nath Kovind presented him with the honour.

After all, why not? It's not every day that you encounter a poor fruit vendor who has dedicated his life's profits to building a school for the children of his village, Harekala-Newpadpu in Mangaluru, which previously lacked one.

There are approximately 175 poor pupils from the village enrolled in the school. Hajabba, who has been selling oranges at Mangaluru bus station since 1977, is illiterate and has never attended school.

When a foreigner asked him how much an orange cost in 1978, he realised he wanted to make a major difference in his village's education.

"As I could not communicate with the foreigner, I felt bad and decided to build a school in the village," the Padma awardee was quoted by 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," he added.

His idea of building a school took two decades to come true. In the year 2000, the Akshara Santa (Letter Saint), a title he earned through his charity activity, approached late MLA UT Fareed, who approved the construction.

The school began with 28 kids and today has 175 students in grades 1 through 10. Hajabba now wants to use the prize money he's collected over the years from numerous awards into the construction of more schools in his area.

When asked what his next target is, the 66-year-old man said, "My target is to build more schools and colleges in my village. Many people have donated money and I have accumulated prize money for purchasing the land for the construction of schools and colleges."

"I have requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to construct a pre-university college (for Class 11 and 12 students) in my village," he added.

He also expressed gratitude to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, MP Nalin Kumar Kateel, district in-charge minister Kota Srinivasa Poojary, and MLA UT Khadar for recognising his charitable efforts.


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