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Harekala Hajabba: From Selling Oranges to Building a School & Winning Padma Shri

A wayside fruit vendor in rural Karnataka sold oranges for 10 years to build a village school — meet Harekala Hajabba, who won the Padma Shri For his extraordinary effort

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About two decades ago, Harekala Hajabba, an orange seller in Mangalore, was caught in a moment of embarrassment when he could not tell foreign tourists the prices of the fruits he was selling.

Having had no formal education and only being aware of Tulu and Beary languages, the 68-year-old failed to respond in English when the couple asked, “How much?”.

“I was embarrassed that I could not tell the price of a fruit I had been selling for years,” he recalls.

Herakala’s village Newpadapu had never had a school, and generations of children from his hometown were dealing with the same fate, deprived of their fundamental rights. So Harekala decided to change his village’s landscape for good, and in 2000, invested all his life savings into starting a school one an acre of land.

“I had never had the opportunity to access education, and I did not want the children in the village to suffer the same fate,” he shares.

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His tireless efforts earned him a Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, in 2020. Here’s his inspiring story.

Edited by Divya Sethu

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