GUWAHATI: Assam’s “family planning jihadi”, who quotes from the holy texts, has finally got his dues, the Padma Shri.
For the past many years, Dr. Ilias Ali has been on a holy mission. The retired surgeon of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital traverses like a nomad to advocate birth control, especially among Assam’s rural Muslim populace.
The 63-year-old often adopts unusual but unique methods to motivate people to go for ‘No Scalpel Vasectomy’ (NSV). He quotes verses from the Quran and the Hadith to encourage people to go for NSV. He mostly works in the state’s Bengali Muslim settlements where people view NSV and the use of contraceptive pills as un-Islamic. Resistance is common, yet he has been able to motivate over 55,000 people to go for NSV.
“The first few years of my mission were very challenging. Those days, my family would get scared when I embarked on a journey to conduct an NSV camp. It feared for my life,” Dr. Ali, who is still a part of Assam’s NSV programme, told this correspondent.
He is happy that the government has recognised his contribution to society.
“I am very happy that my contribution has been recognised. It is an honour to the entire medical team that I have been a part with for years,” he said.
Uddhab Bharali is the other person from Assam to be named for the award. The 57-year-old has to his kitty over 150 innovations.
Three decades ago, Bharali had to drop out of his engineering studies as he could not afford to pay fees and was required to take care of his family. However, that was hardly an obstacle. Riding on his passion for creativity and innovation, he started developing machines, mostly from scrap, for everyday use. The turnaround was when he created a polythene-making machine for surrounding tea estates.
Much of his inventions are today centred round agriculture. His machines for de-seeding of pomegranates, peeling areca nuts and cassava, cutting tobacco leaves to extracting passion fruit juice helped in speedy agricultural process and provided livelihood to many.
Earlier, the BBC had done a documentary on the innovations of Bharali who is a recipient of several awards including three from abroad. He said he was very happy to be honoured.
“I’m feeling very happy that I have got a national recognition. I will continue with my work,” the innovator who works with students from various IITs, said. Bharali takes care of 25 families with poor financial backgrounds and is widely known for his philanthropic works.
Two others from the Northeast to be named for Padma Shri are archer Bombayla Devi Laishram of Manipur and flutist Thanga Darlong of Tripura. The 99-year-old Darlong is the last tribal musician to play “Rosem” which is a bamboo-made flute-like musical instrument.