Cuttack: The mortal remains of social activist and Padma Shri D Prakash Rao were consigned to flames Thursday as Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Navee Patnaik, senior leaders, friends, family and students bid a tearful adieu to the selfless stalwart.
Padma Shri Rao passed away Wednesday at the age of 63 due to coronavirus related complications at Cuttack SCB Medical College and Hospital.
Many people had gathered at the Kaliaboda crematorium here where he was cremated with full state honours, Thursday.
Rao was admitted to SCB Medical College and Hospital (SCBMCH) Cuttack December 25 after being infected with COVID-19.
According to hospital sources, Rao was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Pulmonology department here as his health condition deteriorated. He was also immediately provided oxygen support.
Notably, the 63-year-old Rao was conferred the coveted Padma Shri award on the occasion of Republic Day in 2019. The Government of India honoured him for his contribution towards boosting the value of education among orphans and slum children in Cuttack.
He was under the spotlight again a couple of years ago when Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the Good Samaritan in his radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’.
For the past two decades, Rao had been setting aside half his income from selling tea to educate 70-plus slum children, aged four to nine. The children are from the economically backward sections and sons and daughters of rickshaw pullers, daily wage earners and municipal drain workers, who don’t have the privilege to access quality education.
By starting a school called ‘Asha O Ashwasana’ in 2000, Rao ensured that these children do not get pulled away by crime and alcohol, and instead concentrate on education. Despite not being encouraged by his own father to pursue studies, Rao never stopped helping the young minds around him to get a proper education.
Rao, who had quit school due after passing Class X due to poverty, was an inspiration to many. In addition, he had a strong command over eight different languages.
Besides being a vocal advocate of education, he had also been an active blood donor since 1976. With the aid of his income, he also fed the children with milk and biscuits as mid-day meals and provided school uniforms and footwear as well.