Sixty-year-old Bipin Ganatra, a volunteer fire fighter from Kolkata, was named a Padma Shri awardee by the Central Government on Wednesday. He will be conferred the award by President Pranab Mukherjee on Republic Day.
Over four decades, Ganatra has been selflessly volunteering to save hundreds of lives, risking his own. When he was 12, Ganatra lost his elder brother Narendra in a fire. This triggered his decision to help anyone caught in a similar situation. Ganatra has doused several fires in the city of Kolkata since then.
Ganatra’s work has not been without danger and he almost lost his life once, while trying to retrieve two unexploded cylinders from a fire that had broken out at a warehouse on Strand Road in Kolkata. He has also suffered injuries on several occasions while helping the fire department officials douse fires.
An electrician by profession, Ganatra is often glued to news channels, on the lookout for any fire reported in the city. He also calls the Fire and Emergency Department Headquarters at regular intervals to enquire about fire incidents, after which he immediately rushes to the spot.
Despite his meagre earnings, Ganatra is also known to donate to homeless people and feed stray dogs. During the festivities of Durga puja and Christmas when the streets are choc-a-bloc, he is often seen manning traffic at several points.