We cannot say goodbye to 2021 without thanking these ordinary, humane souls who contributed to society in extraordinary ways. NewsMeter profiles some of the unsung heroes who made difference to society in their own small way:

1.Hakku Initiative

Hakku Initiative team


How many lives did we lose in drains when in the October rains in Hyderabad?

From 'CloseDrainsSaveLives' to farmer suicides and wine shops near residential areas, Hakku Initiative has been highlighting the issues confronting the city. They are ending the year documenting the lives of the ambulance drivers in Hyderabad. 'Mana Hakku, Mana Hyderabad. Mana Hakku, Mana Telangana' is their tagline.

Hakku Initiative is a Hyderabad-based research initiative under the Institute of Perception Studies, New Delhi set up in February 2021 to better understand the civic problems of Hyderabad and to work on possible solutions. Author, activist and researcher Dr. Kota Neelima runs the Hakku Campaign.

2.Relief Riders


Relief Riders were born during the pandemic when techie Santhana Selvan and his fellow cyclists started running errands for the elderly and home-bound Covid patients in the city.

It all started when Selvan received an SOS call from a woman in the US seeking help for her 75-year-old mother at Hyderabad. Selvan immediately mobilized his fellow cyclists and delivered medicines to her doorstep. She was unable to move out given the risk of contracting Covid.

Besides Selvan, IT professionals Ravi Sambari, Dinesh Sale, and civil service aspirant Vijay Jabbireddy are members of `Relief Riders'. The team has received support from other `Hyderabad Cyclists' and `Happy Hyderabad'.

Santhana Selvan popularly known as 'Bicycle Mayor of Hyderabad' advocates for pedestrian rights and road safety.

3.Sanskar Toy

Yakara Ganesh (middle) with Gundu Bharadwaja and Dr.M.Kaushik


Nowadays, many schools are theoretically teaching children the difference between good touch and bad touch. But this is not yielding the expected results. So, three innovators from Warangal- Yakara Ganesh along with Gundu Bharadwaja, a B.Tech student, and Dr. M.K Kaushik, the CEO of Vaagdevi Incubation and Business Accelerator (VIBA) developed a toy for the same. They felt that visual elements leave a long-lasting impact on students.

The toy named 'Sanskar Toy' has an ultrasonic sensor with the sound wave and touch-based capacitive sensor. The toy makes a sound when it detects bad touch.

'Sanskar Toy' won the E-NNOVATE Award for 2021.

4.Rythu Swarajya Vedika


In a year when the state saw a series of farmer suicides following the paddy procurement crisis, it is impossible to forget the efforts of Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV) in documenting farmer suicides and assisting the families of the deceased farmers in getting ex-gratia.

Formed in united Andhra Pradesh in 2011, the independent farmers' organization has been working on problems in the agriculture sector in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana by addressing issues at both village and policy levels.

Recently, RSV offered a space for a public hearing where around 250 women farmers, kin of the deceased farmers in the state gathered in Hyderabad to raise their voice and seek compensation. Following this event, the government released Rs 7.50 crores to 133 families of deceased farmers.

5.Vata Foundation


In September 2021, a 100-year-old tree in Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh fell all of a sudden one afternoon. It was a dear tree for the residents, passersby, and even for the vendors who took shelter under it and carried out their business. The tree was also an abode to thousands of birds belonging to various species.

Interestingly, the tree had withstood strong winds during the tsunami of 2004. The locals were perplexed. Uday Krishna of Vata Foundation specialized in afforestation brought with him not just the answers for the sudden fall of the majestic tree but also a plan to relocate the tree.

A ficus tree was growing above the 100-year-old tree for over a year and unable to bear its weight, the older tree collapsed. The tree was safely planted at another location not far from its original home.

In 2020, the Hyderabad-based Vata Foundation saved 465 fully-grown trees.

6.A.Srija


A. Srija, a student of class 9, and K. Hari Krishna, a student of class 8 from Telangana's Jogulamba district won the third prize at the CSIR Innovation Award for School Children in 2020 for making biodegradable pots with groundnut shells to plant saplings in nurseries.

Back in March 2020, Srija was digging a pit in her school premises to plant a sapling. She found a polythene bag from a sapling that was planted a few years ago. She found that the sapling had been planted along with the polythene bag.

She thought that there should be an alternative to polythene bags and then got the idea of biodegradable pots.

7.Vijay Gopal


How many of us have even thought that starting a movie 15 or 20 minutes late by theatre authorities is a punishable offence?

Vijay Gopal went to watch 'Game Over' on 22 June 2019. The ticket showed the movie was to start at 4:30 pm but the multiplex started at 4:45 pm, screening advertisements and other slides for around 15-20 minutes.

He filed a case at the consumer court and the multiplex was fined over Rs 1 lakh for not starting the movie as per the time mentioned on the ticket.

Vijay Gopal had also raised his voice against the huge parking fees collected by multiplexes among other issues.

Such brave efforts by citizens empower more and more people to raise their voices for their rights.

8.Sai Charan Chikkulla


Sai Charan Chikkulla has been a savior for many people seeking oxygen concentrators to ventilator beds in hospitals to beds during the pandemic period in the city.

When he discovered that the beds which were shown available in the government dashboard were actually occupied beds, he thought why could he not use his connections in the pharma industry could be used to find beds for needy patients.

That's when he decided to take a sabbatical from the pharmaceutical company where he was an MD and devote his entire time to attending SOS calls from Covid patients and their attendants.

9.BusLo Bharosa (BLB)


Most of the women do not feel safe when they travel in a bus as they had lived experiences of sexual harassment onboard. Four women Hima Bindu, Kaumudi Nagaraju, Nikhitha, and Jaina are working to instill trust among commuters in public places like buses.

Aiming at bystander engagement and breaking the systemic silence around the issue, BusLoBharosa was born out of countless lived experiences and the onus victims have to shoulder each time they experience street sexual harassment.

The BLB team proposes installing announcement systems and laminated posters with dedicated messages against sexual harassment and its reporting mechanisms. They believe that reinforcing prosocial messages through public announcements subconsciously bears behavioral change at its core.

10.Saakaram

Team Saakaram with Telugu Film Producer Tammareddy Bharadwaj


Telangana has the highest population of working women i.e; 46%, higher than the national average as per the recent report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI). But still, there was no data on the public domain regarding the effectiveness of the implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act, 2013 also known as POSH.

#NoDataNoPosh is a petition started by a team of budding activists that goes by the name Saakaram, all fellows of the Awaaz-e-Telangana fellowship asking for a 3rd party assessment to gauge POSH compliance in Telangana.

11. Mohammed Shujatullah


The NGO Humanity First Foundation founded by Mohammed Shujatullah played a significant role in breathing back life to thousands of people by providing free oxygen cylinders to needy patients during the pandemic.

Besides, what started in 2016 after Shujatullah pledged to god to feed 10 hungry people if he passes in a paper for which he had a backlog, is now the respite to thousands of weeping tummies in the city. Since 2016, he has been providing daily breakfast to thousands of people in front of the Niloufer Hospital and Koti Maternity Hospital. Later he found HFF for initiating various other similar activities.

12.Pradeep Kumar G


In September 2021, following a Supreme Court judgment, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued orders to all states and Union Territories to release ex-gratia relief of Rs. 50,000 to the next of kin of those who died of Covid-19. Many states issued the G.O. and started the procedures. But there was neither a G.O. nor information from the Telangana government.

Pradeep Kumar who felt strongly about the issue wrote for the NewsMeter Citizen Journalism platform highlighting the issue. After four days, the Telangana government issued a G.O. directing district collectors to constitute Covid-19 Death Ascertaining Committee (CDAC) to issue death certificates for families to claim ex-gratia.

13.Laila

Laila and her team


Laila, a transgender, and her team run a generic pharmacy in Warangal. The USP of this pharmacy is its affordable prices. Not just transgenders but Laila's initiative has helped people from across caste, class, disability, gender, religion, and other forms of social exclusion who otherwise found it difficult to afford medicines.

The pharmacy which now has been operating for over a year has lighted hopes in the lives of many people.

14.Local tribal people of Araku


Had it not been for local tribal people of Araku valley, the casualties in the private bus accident on the Ghat road at Damuku in Vizag Agency in February this year could have been higher. A few locals living close to the accident spot were the first to see the private travel bus rolling down into a 100 feet gorge.

Thanks to the heroic rescue efforts of the 40 local tribals in the dark night, many tourists with serious head injuries could be lifted from the 80ft deep gorge onto the Araku Ghat road where the bus veered off.

Four persons including an eight-month-old baby girl were killed and 22 others were injured in the ghat road accident.

15.Sai Teja


Every time we jump over a pothole with our vehicle, we crib and cry of the government not doing anything about it. How many of us have ever thought of parking our vehicles aside and filling that pothole by ourselves. Sounds crazy?

Sai Teja and his three friends- Srinivas Bellam, Ram, and Raghu bought some tar and started filling the potholes in the Pragathi Nagar Road in Nizampet. Soon they started taking up road cleaning as a fun activity on Sundays.

Through their efforts, they intend to wake up the officials of the Nizampet Municipal Corporation. In the New Year, they are planning to expand their work to other areas facing similar problems across the city.

16.Khalida Parveen


Ever since the lockdown was imposed in March, several families in Hyderabad were charged a large sum of money to have their Covid-deceased associates buried or cremated post-death. Also, in several incidents, the families had to pay around Rs. 20,000 for an ambulance that is willing to transport Covid victims to the sight of their funeral.

As a solution, the 65-year-old social activist Khalida Parveen initiated a last-rites service for citizens who succumbed to Covid in Hyderabad through her NGO Amoomat Society in July 2021. Parveen also inaugurated an ambulance service that would provide free transportation of the deceased to funeral sites.

17.Ramu Dosapati


Several kits are placed on a table. A kit comprises rice, atta, oil, yellow dal, sugar, tea, chili, turmeric powder, and tamarind. A blackboard mentioning the details and contact numbers acts as a helpline desk. Any poor can walk in and take the kits from the table to feed his family. Where else on earth have you seen this kind of compassion?

Ramu Dosapati, an HR professional used his Rs 23 lakhs of Provident Fund money to set up a Rice-ATM in LB Nagar to feed the poor and hungry people. It was the act of a poor watchwoman spending her meager salary to buy food for hungry migrant workers that inspired Ramu to start the Rice-ATM.

Hundreds of people benefit every day from Ramu's initiative.

18.Nageswar Reddy


Getting a tummy-filling breakfast for Rs 10 is a dream in many cities?

Meet Nageswara Reddy of Renuka Tiffin Centre in Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, who serves any tiffin for Rs 10. Serving tiffin since 2012, there are at least 1000 members who come to her tiffin center to have their morning breakfast. Nageswara Reddy who studied till class X worked as a waiter in a hotel and learnt how to behave with customers, run a business, and later started his own tiffin center. He is popular for serving food that tastes like our home-cooked food for just Rs 10.

19.Soumya


Big thanks to all the brave doctors who worked tirelessly round the clock every day to serve their patients in their hour of need.

It has been a year since Soumya, a final-year gynecology student at the Andhra Medical University, went home. She was herself affected by the virus during the second wave while on her Covid-19 duty. However, she came back even stronger and more determined.

There were days when Soumya had to attend six to seven deliveries, at a stretch, for Covid positive mothers wearing PPE kits. For her, losing the life of a pregnant woman due to Covid-19 was more painful.

20.Abida Fatima

Abida Fatima (extreme right) with the co-founders of Pearls Square


Have you ever bought a plate of golgappas or panipuris prepared by a woman? Walk into the café on the ground floor of Pearls Square in Tolichowki to taste one. Not just panipuris and golgappas but remember you are entering a women's only zone. It is a hangout place exclusively for women, run entirely by women.

Forty-year-old Abida Fatim, a resident of Khader Bagh in Hyderabad started this unique venture with two of her friends in March 2021. Abida believes that women are more comfortable in such spaces rather than in public parks, cafes, or theatres.

Besides, she also points out the lack of freedom that women have in their homes where women cannot sit with their friends, talk, laugh, and scream with family members moving around.

21.Abhishek Muraka


People in the city can have more access to resources and information, but where do the villagers go for information?

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During the second wave of the pandemic, two engineers from Adilabad- Abhishek Muraka and Ajay Bharadwaj - developed a website to help people of Adilabad who are in urgent need of beds, plasma, blood, or oxygen.

They developed such a website to make it easy for people to find all the important resources related to Covid-19. It includes bed availability, plasma donors, injections, and food services.

Nimisha S Pradeep

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, Nimisha completed her MA in Communication (with a specialization in Print and New Media) from the University of Hyderabad. She has interned with The Hindu Metroplus, Chennai and The Sentinel, Assam. She was a fellow of the NFI Fellowship for Independent Journalists in 2021. In 2015, she attended the Jenesys Student Exchange Programme in Japan. She firmly believes in the power of words and the impact it can make on society. She looks forward to using her career in journalism to voice the issues of minorities. Her interest areas include gender, women and society. She pursues travel, photography, and music in her leisure time.

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