Mother Teresa, responsible for setting up various trusts, clinics, treatment centres, etc. worldwide, was awarded the Bharat Ratna today in 1980
Awarded on 25th Jan 1980
Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, better known by Mother Teresa, lived between 1910 and 1997. Her life and works would take her from her birthplace in North Macedonia to Ireland and then to India - and it is here that her work would be mostly conducted. She would work for the benefit of the poor along with an organisation containing a host of nuns and other people to facilitate these tasks.
She had been in India since 1929, where she was expected to conduct her novitiate, a period of training and preparation in Catholic Christianity before becoming a member of the priestly order. Teaching in Calcutta, she would visit various regions of Bengal at a time when it was in deep misery - the Bengal Famine, the Direct Action Day riots, and the Partition had left millions dead and starving, or simply homeless.
To provide aid and shelter to these people, she found the Missionaries of Charity, an organisation dedicated to helping those in need - medical treatment, food, schooling, etc. She faced difficulties in getting this plan into action - as with little to no income, it became extremely difficult for her to sustain the programme without sufficient supplies. With official support from the Bengal government and the Vatican, she would open a hospice in Calcutta, free for the poor. She would go on to open many such places, some dedicated to leprosy, some for homeless children and orphans. Here, medication, dressings and food would be provided free of cost to the needy.
By the 1960s, her programme had inspired efforts across the nation for opening up of hospices, orphanages and leper houses. From this point inwards, her charity has grown to over 5000 sisters managing various installations for the poor from merely a dozen or so members. Participants, workers, and volunteers in these places belong not only to India but come from all over the world.
To acknowledge her efforts undertaken to help the poor and those undergoing suffering, the Indian government rewarded her with Padma Shri and various other awards. Finally, on the 25th of January, 1980 - the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India.
Till date, only three people not born in India have been the Bharat Ratna recipients. One is Mother Teresa who is the only naturalized citizen to get this award. The other two non- Indians to win it are Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Nelson Mandela.
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