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Versatility is her forte



Dr Swarajya Lakshmi. ---Photo: K.R. Deepak

Her uncles had named her `Swarajyalakshmi' with the fond hope that she would gain Independence to the nation from the British yoke. Though she was not drawn towards the freedom movement, she served her motherland after Independence with sincerity in whatever project she was involved and contributed to its success.

Meet, Bollapragada Swarajyalakshmi, a doctor, teacher, social worker and Mano Yoga Sadhana trainer, all rolled into one.

Born at Guntur in 1931, Swarajyalakshmi, did her Intermediate at the P.R. College in Kakinada. It was at that time, she had an occasion to see Mahatma Gandhi. She and her friends from the college went to the Samalkot Railway Station. "A mammoth crowd had gathered at the station to receive him. He came by the 3rd Class compartment. He put his pointing finger on his nose to ask the gathering to maintain silence and that was enough to make them go dumb struck momentarily."

"I was amazed at the tremendous respect he commanded despite his frail frame. That day was a Monday and he was observing `Mouna vratam' (to observe silence). The text of his message was read out in Telugu and there were spontaneous calls of `Gandhiji ki jai'. The incident left an indelible impression on my mind," she recalls.

She was only 17, when India attained her Independence.

Swarajyalakshmi had a keen interest in mathematics and dreamt of becoming an astrophysicist. "My father and brothers wanted me to do medicine and I had to bow to their wishes," she says.

She, however, has no regrets. She was instrumental in the setting up of an iodated salt factory in Paderu in the mid-1980s. As principal investigator of a research project, she led a team from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine of Andhra Medical College, in conducting studies on the prevalence of goiter in the tribal belt of Visakhapatnam district. We recommended the setting up of the salt factory and the Government had responded promptly.

The SPM Department gained international recognition for its findings. She was chosen coordinator of the Universal Immunisation Programme in 1985. "There were no cooling and sterlisation facilities in the district to store the vaccines. I brought the issue to the notice of the then Municipal Commissioner, Mohanty, and with his help the facilities were set up. This resulted in Visakhapatnam getting the first place in the country in the implementation of the programme with 85 per cent success."

The gap between children and parents is increasing as both parents are going out for work. Parents should take greater interest in the affairs of their children. The choice of choosing a career option should be given to the children and parents shouldn't thrust their opinions on the former.

Dr. Swarajyalakshmi retired from service in 1989. As secretary of the Mahila Vikasa Samstha, she revived the surgical gauze and bandage unit meant for the women of the weaker sections at Chodavaram in Visakhapatnam district, which was closed down for want of funds in 1985.

The unutilized gauze was sold to a private agency for making examination covers. The money earned was utilised for undertaking minor repairs to the building. The district administration, impressed by the revival of the unit by an NGO, spent Rs.4.2 lakhs and constructed an office room, store room, a compound wall and repaired the lavatories. The unit started functioning regularly from 1987.

As a health consultant for the Slum Improvement Project of the Municipal Corporation, she made local private medical practitioners honorary medical officers of the Primary Health Centres. This motivated the private practitioners to utilise their spare time in rendering medical services in the PHC under their jurisdiction. The health of the slum children showed a marked improvement and the move came in for a lot of appreciation.

An authorised senior trainer in Mano Yoga Sadhana, a yogic practice developed by Sri Somnatha Maharshi of Hyderabad, with medical orientation, Dr. Swarajyalakshmi has conducted training classes both in Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad. The practitioners derive energy from nature. It relaxes the mind and relieves tensions and enables them to face the world in a better way.

A three-month training programme was conducted by her with the assistance of the trainers of the Visakhapatnam branch, for the children of AP Residential School, Simhachalam, in 2001. A medical check up conducted after the training revealed that the programme had made a spectacular difference to all the trainees.

B.M.G.

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