The Swarajya Awards for 2015 were announced today at the second India Ideas Conclave, Goa. Dr Arvind Panagariya, Sajjad Lone, Joe D’Cruz, and the Robin Hood Army were the winners across the four categories.
1. Dr Arvind Panagariya wins the Dr B.R Shenoy Award for Economics 2015 for his immeasurable contribution to liberal economics.
The B.R Shenoy Award, named in honour of India’s great free market economist who challenged the Nehruvian dirigisme, will be presented every year to an individual who has consistently advocated the value of open market, stood for reduced role for government in Enterprise and thereby made a significant contribution to advance human freedom.
Dr. Arvind Panagariya, vice-chairman of Niti Aayog, is the most appropriate choice to receive the very first B.R. Shenoy Award. The award is in honour of India’s bravest free market economist who dared to challenge Nehruvian socialism and paid the price for it. Dr Panagariya, like Shenoy, has consistently championed free markets and minimal role of government in the economy.
Dr Panagariya was born in September 1952 as the youngest of three sons of a government official. His Jaipur-based family was not very well-off but set a great store by education. Dr Panagariya got his bachelor’s degree from Rajasthan University and alongside a half-hearted attempt at the civil services examination to humour his father, he applied to universities in the United States for further studies. He got admitted to Chicago, Cornell and Princeton, chose the third and earned a PhD degree from there. The civil services loss turned out to be economics’ gain and Dr. Panagariya emerged as a firm believer, and strong advocate, of liberal economics.
Specialising in international trade, Dr. Panagariya has, in his ten books and countless articles, always made out a compelling case for the dismantling of protectionist barriers by both developed and developing countries.
Dr. Panagariya, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2012, has worked in the University of Maryland, College Park, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and UNCTAD. Just before taking up the Niti Aayog post, he was teaching at Columbia University where he was the Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy. His 2008 book, India: The Emerging Giant, has been praised by critics and economists as, among other things, “the definitive book on the Indian economy”.
2. Sajjad Lone wins the Dr S.P Mukherjee Award for Politics, 2015 for his commitment to democracy, peace and development.
Dr S.P Mukherjee Award, named in honour one of India’s great statesman – politician and an intellectual progenitor of a uniquely Indian political philosophy, will be presented every year to an active politician who has consistently strived to uphold values that Dr Mukherjee epitomised – commitment to constitutional values, and thoughtful interventions to enrich the quality of public life.
It is now evident that peace in Jammu and Kashmir is possible only through democracy and development. Sajjad Lone, by participating in the democratic process, and as a Minister of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, has set an example for those concerned with the wellbeing and prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir, and has also shown that democracy, peace and development are mutually complementary.
As the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, Lone has an inspirational record of public service. His entry into the democratic arena of India in 2008 came amidst dire threats from those who would have suffered from such a move. Yet, Lone kept the interest of the people above all else, and has since contributed immeasurably for ensuring lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
With his spirit of service and his commitment to Indian democracy, Lone embodies the values espoused by the late Dr.Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Dr Mukherjee dedicated his life for the preservation of the integrity of India. Lone, in his capacity as a senior leader of Jammu and Kashmir has furthered that noble cause.
With his participation in the electoral process, Lone has demonstrated his enduring commitment to peace and his belief in the opportunities which democracy offers. As a Minister in the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Lone has assumed the noble yet arduous responsibility of furthering the development of his state. As both, a political leader and an administrator, Sajjad Lone’s contributions to peace and development are immense and far-reaching.
It is thus befitting that the Dr.Shyama Prasad Mukherjee award for 2015 be given to Sajjad Lone.
3. Joe D’Cruz, through his writing, manifests the soul of India, like the late Ustad Bismillah Khan did through his music. And for that, Joe D’Cruz wins the Ustad Bismillah Khan Award for Culture, 2015.
Ustad Bismillah Khan Award, named in honour of one of India’s great musicians. who embodied the essence of India’s cultural syncretism and shared civilizational heritage, will be presented every year to an individual who has achieved the highest level of excellence in fields like arts/ culture/literary/philosophy/folk tradition.
R.N. Joe D Cruz was born into a traditional Tamil fisherman family, and has years of hands-on experience in traditional fishing systems as well as in corporate fishing. He has also been a community activist, raising his voice for the coastal communities of not only Tamil Nadu but entire India. He has been actively working and writing for the ecological preservation, national integration and inclusive social development of the coastal region and communities. He is also the founder and managing trustee of Bharatha Culture and heritage Trust. He is a visiting faculty for shipping institutions including Indian Maritime University, Chennai
He is an eminent Tamil writer who established his place in Tamil literary field for ever with his first work: World Surrounded by Ocean (Aazhi Choozh Ulaku). Published in November 2004, the novel deals with the lives and fortunes of several interlinked Catholic fishermen families. His second work Korkai is set in the port town Tuticorin. This 1174 pages novel, published in December 2009, spoke about a traditional community in south Tamil Nadu who were pioneers of maritime business and were also pearl divers off the Coromandal coast. The epic narrative of Korkai traces through multiple layers an inner chord of spiritual struggle between an earth-bound goddess tradition and an imposed system alien to that tradition.
A born fighter, he regularly faces threats of violence and excommunication from fundamentalist elements and vested interests. But nothing deters him from his mission of empowering the coastal communities by integrating mainland India with them and them with mainland India. The division that exists between the coastal communities and mainland, he believes is artificial and is not traditional. He perseveres for the original organic ties that united the coastal communities with Indian mainland communities.
He has been recipient of national and international awards for his literary output.
Through his literature and his mission for socio-cultural empowerment, Joe D Cruz manifests bravely and holistically the soul of India. He is a natural recipient for the Ustad Bismillah Khan Award.
4. Robin Hood Army wins the Sree Narayana Guru Award for Social Work, 2015, for its singular efforts towards fighting hunger.
Sree Narayana Guru Award, named in honour of a great Hindu Social reformer from Kerala who worked for social equality, spiritual freedom and economic empowerment of underprivileged, will be presented every year to Individuals/institutions engaged in transformational social work projects/ inspiring grassroots activism in rural education healthcare/tribal welfare/ empowerment of marginalised/rural entrepreneurship.
It all started in August last year when a group of six youngsters decided to address two important issues, hunger and food wastage. They drove to restaurants, collected unsold food, re-packaged it and gave it to around 100 people in need of it around the city.
Within a few months, the movement gained nationwide support and appreciation, and spread across 13 cities, including Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkata. In April this year, the movement crossed national borders, with cities like Karachi and Lahore organising such volunteering campaigns.
Neel Ghose and Anand Sinha, the two 27-year-old founders, were inspired by Refood International, an organisation based in Portugal. Using a hyperlocal model, they collect excess food and give it to those who need it.
The two then roped in colleagues and friends for the campaign. Volunteers kept pouring in, and now they work across India and Pakistan owing to the tremendous efforts by their social media team on Facebook.
Robin Hood Army’s young professionals work in small teams and are assigned specific areas. They visit local restaurants, convince them to donate surplus food, identify clusters of people in need – such as the homeless and orphanages – and carry out weekly distributions. Now around 30 restaurants across Delhi and NCR have also started to provide freshly cooked meals for the initiative.
In a nation which has one fourth of the world’s undernourished population, the exemplary efforts by organisations like Robin Hood Army are a beacon of hope and deserve full support.
Poverty, hunger and malnutrition are major national issues but organisations like Robin Hood Army definitely prove us that even simple solutions can do wonders.