Baby Steps Made Ordinary Tea Seller A Padma Shri Awardee

Most often we position ourselves to be the giver only when we have enough on our plate and there's more to spare for others. Going beyond that range is rare and selfless. But for decades Odisha's 61-year-old Devarapalli Prakash Rao has taken young, underprivileged kids under his wing and given them an opportunity to excel in life which was beyond the means of their parents. Today, he has been nominated for the fourth highest civilian award for his contribution in social work.

Prakash earns around Rs 600 everyday by his small-tea-shop in Baxi Bazar area of Cuttack, Odisha. For the last 18 years he is spending half of his income on educating children of rickshaw-pullers, daily wage laborers, municipal drain workers, and other slum dwellers of the city. He persuades the underprivileged children to come to school which is a tough job as their parents expect them to work and look after their siblings while they are out trying to make a living.

Prakash was a bright student in his days and wanted to become a doctor. He knows the pain of not having opportunities and it is the main reason behind his selfless work that has transformed so many lives. He did not want others to go through the same helplessness.


After convincing parents from low-income group to send their children to school Prakash takes care of them, feeds them milk and biscuits, provides them with school uniforms and chappals. He has taught around 100 children till now, some of them are now attending college and making their parents proud.

After media highlighted his story, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Prakash during his visit to Cuttack. He also spoke about him in his radio broadcast 'Mann Ki Baat'.

A Facebook user shares that he met Prakash about two years back and expressed his amazement as to why he hadn't received recognition for all his work over the years. His response was humble. "I do it for the society without any greed for profit or vested interest."

His hunger to serve the society goes beyond teaching. Prakash has a record in his name for donating blood 217 times. He has also formed a group of young volunteers for platelet donation.


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