It was just days ago former United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) chief Erik Solheim shared a small video on paralysis-hit NS Rajappan collecting plastic waste from Kerala’s scenic Vembanad Lake despite his disability and said he should be made famous.
Today, Mr Rajappan got the recognition when Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his “Mann Ki Baat” programme on hailed his commitment towards cleanliness, saying all should emulate him and make contributions wherever possible.
Sitting in his small country boat in the lake in Kumarakom near Kerala’s Kottayam, the elderly man said he was “very happy” as the prime minister himself acknowledged his efforts.
Solheim in a tweet on January 14 had praised the efforts of Mr Rajappan to clean up the backwaters, beauty of which attracts tourists from all across the world.
“Everyday Rajappan gets into his small boat & collect plastic bottles from Vembanad lake in India. All alone. We should make him famous,” he had said.
In the 20th episode of Mann Ki Baat 2.0, PM Modi said the news from Kottayam about the divyang elderly person “makes us realise our responsibilities.”
“In Kottayam of Kerala there is an elderly divyang, NS Rajappan Sahab. Due to paralysis, Rajappan is incapable of walking, but this has not affected his commitment to cleanliness,” the Prime Minister said.
Noting that the past several years Mr Rajappan has been rowing his boat into the Vembanad Lake and taking out the plastic bottles thrown into the water body, Modi said, “Think, how great Rajappan ji’s thought is!
“Taking inspiration from Rajappan ji, we too should, wherever possible, make our contribution to cleanliness,” he added.
Rajappan, who crawls using his hands to move around, said he is making his living by collecting garbage bottles from the lake.
“I am paralysed below my knees. I can”t walk. I ventured into the lake yesterday also to collect plastic bottles. I got four sacks full of waste bottles,” he told reporters.
He said he had been doing this work for the past 17 years.
“Every day, I manage to climb into the boat and venture out to collect garbage bottles”, he said.
Asked about his wishes, the elderly person said his house was in a dilapidated condition. “I need a house. My house doesn’t have a proper roof,” he said.