Ramon Magsaysay Award for two Indians with ideas and action

    Exposing the development bluff, heavily dependent on the huge grants of money that makes little difference to the lives of the poor, Anshu Gupta, the CEO of Goonj, has creatively transformed the currency for development by using donated materials, instead of money. Goonj set an example for governments that harp on lack of resources for social development by acting differently and finding solutions within the available resources. For the non-profit sector, at the receiving end of the present government’s scrutiny and distrust, the Ramon Magsayasay Award, Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, for Goonj has come at an opportune time. Almost unrecognised hitherto, the NGO has successfully transformed the culture of giving by maintaining dignity of the beneficiaries, who barter labour for the materials received.

    Whistleblower bureaucrat Sanjiv Chaturvedi is another Indian who shares the Magsaysay Award for 2015 with three other recipients from Laos, the Philippines and Myanmar for his sustained crusade against corruption that exposes the hollowness of the Prime Minister’s slogan “Na khaunga, na khane doonga” (will neither indulge in corruption nor let anyone). As the Chief Vigilance Officer, AIIMS, Chaturvedi initiated action against the supply of dubious medicines, irregular appointments of consultants and tenders awarded on fake documents. As a reward for his expose, he was suspended, kept out of work, and harassed. Such examples deter others, especially in the bureaucracy, from speaking out their mind against the prevalence of corrupt practices in the system.

    These contributors to social development need recognition and encouragement. In 2014, the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Kailash Satyarthi was a grim reminder of the scourge of child labour that persists in the 21st century India. Goonj has distributed three million sanitary napkins processed from discarded clothes to poor women. These campaigners for social change remind us from time to time the vast gulf that persists between word and action. They need to be heeded.

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