CHENNAI: Multifaceted Preethi Srinivasan, a national level swimmer at the age of eight, was also the youngest to play in the Tamil Nadu women's cricket team. But her life turned into a nightmare at the age of 18 after an accident that left her a quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair.
Breaking the shackles of social stigma and denial, Preethi set up a trust called “Soul Free” for people affected with spinal cord injuries and rose to become the only person with a disability to have ever received the Tamil Nadu government's Kalpana Chawla award for courage and daring enterprise from Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamy on Tuesday.
“It was a regular day almost 17 years ago when I went for a college excursion. Under my feet were receding waves and when I stumbled, I dove in face forward into the water as I was a swimmer. The moment my face went under water, shock waves travelled through my body and I could not stand again,” she said.
Preethi who was doing well in academics, was a world class swimmer and the under 19 women's cricket team captain of TN saw her world going upside down as people started ignoring her and respect and admiration turned to pity. To her dismay, her father died a little while after. “That is when it struck me that I have to be on my own someday and realised there is not even one rehabilitation centre for the disabled in India. One fifth of the world's population do not have anywhere to go and India does not even recognise spinal cord injuries as a specific multiple disability,” she said, adding that if a person with a spinal cord injury is treated by somebody who is not trained on the conditions, the victim will die within the first year.
As a result, she set up “Soul Free”, a public charitable trust to help the severely disabled live a life of dignity and purpose. It aims to spread knowledge on spinal cord injuries to every school, college and public so that people understand the gravity of the condition. It also strives to provide a support system for people with disabilities and their family via donations, education and employment opportunities. “We are also donating a Para-Olympic sports wheelchair to an athlete this year,” she said. She also works as a full time writer.
Thyagarajan receives Kalam award
The Government of Tamil Nadu also awarded S.P. Thyagarajan with the APJ Abdul Kalam award for discovering a patented drug to treat hepatitis B, the Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation Limited for the use of industrial by-products to manufacture paver blocks and bricks, the department of agriculture for timely risk management through the Pradhan Mantri Faisal Bima Yojana, and the department of commercial taxes for implementation of "Total Solutions" project.
K. Satyagopal received a certificate of appreciation for having devised an innovative watering technique for trees.
The best social worker award was given to V.P. Elayapari, founder of Cute Trust for serving hundreds of disabled persons for more than 20 years and Krishnammal Jagannathan was conferred an award for outstanding work done for women....