UPL’s Shroff, Lijjat Papad founder among 6 Padma winners from Maharashtra

Mumbai, Jan 25 (IANS) Six prominent personalities from Maharashtra, including two inspiring women, have been named for this year’s Padma awards, on the occasion of the country’s Republic Day.
Industrialist Rajnikant Devidas Shroff, the legendary founder and Chairman-cum-Managing Director of United Phosphorus Ltd, an Indian MNC founded in 1969, has been honoured with the country’s third-highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan.
Shroff, 87, born in Gujarat and educated in Mumbai’s Khalsa College, is ranked 87th on the Forbes list of richest Indians, besides being known as the country’s ‘Crop Protection King’.
Five personalities have been named for the Padma Shri honour – Sindhutai Sapkal, Jaswantiben Jamnadas Popat, Parshuram Atmaram Gangavane, Namdeo C. Kamble and Girish Prabhune, as per the official notification on Monday.
Popat, 91, is one of the 7 semi-literate Gujarati housewives who founded the company producing the world-famous ‘Lijjat Papad’ in 1959, as a household venture, and making her a doyen of women’s empowerment.
Started with a modest seed capital of Rs 80, their cooperative venture – the Shri Mahila Gruh Udyog Lijjat Papad – now has a turnover of over Rs 1,000 crore, branches all over India, exports to more than two dozen countries and employs nearly 44,000 women.
Sapkal, 72, is renowned as the ‘Mother of Orphans’, was married at the age of 12 to a 32-year-old man, who abandoned her when she was barely 20. Rejected by her parents, she resorted to begging on streets or stations for survival and as mother of 4 children including a daughter, she hid in cemeteries at night to escape men on the prowl after dark.
Later, she realised that there are many orphans and adopted them as her own, begging or doing odd jobs for their survival, and she donated her youngest daughter to a Pune trust to eliminate the feeling of discriminating between her own child and the orphaned street-children.
Over the years, she has nurtured over 1,050 orphans, has 207 sons-in law, 36 daughters-in-law and over 1,000 grandkids, who affectionately call her ‘Mai’ (Mom) as she came to be revered in social-political circles for her selfless devotion to the case of abandoned children who have nobody to care for them.
Parshuram Atmaram Gangavane is a renowned folk artist of the ‘Chitrakathi’ genre, puppeteer and storyteller, Namdeo C. Kamble is a well-known Marathi literary figure, while Girish Prabhune is an eminent social worker and thinker working in different parts of India among the deprived sections of society.

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