BHUBANESWAR: Age has never been a deterrent for Shanti Devi. At the age of 17, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, she left college and moved to Koraput district with an aim to work for the poor in one of the most backward regions. She was accompanied by her husband Dr Ratan Das, for helping the poor.
Today at the age of 86, she continues to follow the path of Bhave's Bhoodan movement and strives to ensure that every person from poor socio-economic background in Rayagada and Koraput districts has a piece of land to call his own.
Shanti founded Seva Samaj in undivided Koraput in 1964 and has been working for the tribals and destitute children ever since. She also wants to launch an anti-liquor movement in the region. "A majority of problems in our State can be solved if the government provides everyone a piece of land and implements stricter laws for curbing liquor manufacturing and consumption," said Shanti.
With her team of 50 social workers and 500 volunteers, she is currently managing three child care institutions, an educational complex for ST girls and several creche centres in southern Odisha. All the facilities were started by her in the last four decades.
Development of tribal girls is an issue close to her heart. Around 100 tribal girls are currently studying free of cost in the educational complex at Limameda village near Gunupur, that she set up with help of the Centre in 1993.
While Shanti is thankful to the Central and State governments for bestowing upon her the prestigious Padma Shri award, the Gandhian feels she has a lot more to do for the society.