Madurai Chinna Pillai, whose defining moment was when former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee touched her feet while giving her the Shree Shakti Puraskar in recognition of her contribution to women’s empowerment way back in 1999, has been awarded this year’s Republic Day .
Chinna Pillai, who helped rural women escape from debt trap by starting a microcredit finance movement called Kalanjiyam, was invited to New Delhi by Vajpayee to receive the Shree Shakti Puraskar award. She was visibly moved when Vajpayee bowed to her.
She is among the seven Padma awardees from TamilNadu and those who have connection with the State.
The others in the honour list are spiritual leader Bangaru Adigalar whose trust runs a charitable medical college and hospital; Narthaki Natraj known as a transgender Bharata Natyam exponent of the Thanjvur school; Prabhu Deva who started in the Tamil film world as a choreographer and then acted and directed many films in all four southern languages as well as Hindi; eye specialist Ramanathan V Ramani of the Sankara Nethra Hospital in Chennai; singer and composer from Mumbai Shankar Mahadevan; ace drummer Sivamani who made his name in A R Rahman’s troupe; Dr R Venkataswami, a plastic surgeon attached to the Government Stanley Hospital who recently mended a severed hand of a youth; ace table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal, winner of India’s first gold medal in Commonwealth Games in 2006.