Meet Shanti Devi, who is saving lives in Maoist-hit Rayagada

Shanti Devi, Padma Shri Awardee Shanti Devi

One of Odisha’s most prominent social worker Shanti Devi was bestowed with the Padma Shri award on the eve of the 72nd Republic Day. “I am thankful to the government to have chosen me for this prestigious award. But, I feel the real award for any human is his or her work for the betterment of society. If one can bring about a positive change in the life of a less-fortunate person, there cannot be any bigger prize,” she said. 

The 86-year-old has dedicated her life towards working for tribal women and children. She was among the the six Padma Shri awardees who was conferred with the Padma Shri award this year. Let us get to know this empowering woman better. 

Early Life

Shanti Devi was born on 18 April, 1934 to a landlord family in Balasore. After getting married to a doctor, she made Koraput district, tribal district her home. It was here that she established an ashram which tended to people suffering from various diseases. She is a former director of education who has also been active in propagating Odia culture. 

Shanti Devi’s Work 

Shanti Devi was inspire by the work of Vinobha Bhave. In her youth, Devi has even joined Bhave’s Bhudan movement. Devi went on to establish a voluntary body called Seva Samaj in 1965 which has been working towards providing education and rehabilitating orphans. These children have also been provided with vocational training as well. Shanti Devi had even built an ashram for the same. 

Later, she also established a branch of the Seva Swaraj in Rayagada as well.  The formidable social worker now successfully runs three orphanages dedicated to girls in Gunupur and Rayagada, a hostel specifically for tribal girls in Limameda and about eight welfare centres for tribal children in Rayagada and Gajapati. 

Where is Rayagada?

In Odisha, there are many maoist regions and often these areas remain poor due to lack of development. Rayagada is a district in south of Odisha. This region has many tribes including the Khonds and the Soras.

Commoners Bring Pride?

Shanti Devi’s achievement was much talked about in the Odisha media. Though the newspapers in the state celebrated her as a commoner getting the award, for the tribals she is their biggest strength for she brings them opportunities and dignity of work.