Magsaysay award is celebration of an idea, says Deep Joshi

Magsaysay award is celebration of an idea, says Deep Joshi

Social Activist Deep Joshi, who has been chosen for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2009, his wife Sheela and daughter Girija at their residence in Gurgaon on Tuesday. PTI Photo

“Individuals do not matter. This is a celebration of an idea...of effectively combining head and heart in the transformative development of rural communities,” Joshi said on Tuesday, a day after he was named along with five others for the prestigious award considered Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

“The idea of developing or helping other human beings requires an interest in the people that you are working with. So you have to be motivated to give part of your life and of yourself for the good of other people,” New Delhi-based Joshi explained.

“You need that because you are creating opportunities in rural India -- it's a demanding enterprise. You need sympathy, a certain amount of commitment for people who are left out. You also need to help them make a better world for themselves -- that's the meaning of head and heart.”

Joshi, 62, was the co-founder of Professional Assistance for Development Action (Pradan) that works all over India for the rural poor, promoting self-help groups, developing locally suitable economic activities and introducing systems to improve livelihoods of rural people.

Despite a business background, Joshi, who has double masters degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and in management from the Sloan School, says he was drawn into public service.

“I first saw a sanitation project in 1977 and somehow after that I was drawn to the development of the rural population.”

In his reckoning, India had the best social sector programmes in place but the problem was in its implementation and improving delivery systems.

“There are a myriad programmes and if you look around the world, India has the best policies. Look at the rural health mission, the employment guarantee programme. The idea is to see if it is being implemented and if it is linked to progress,” he said.

“What's the point of sending a mission to the moon when one third of the population lives in poverty in the rural outback?”

Every year, the Ramon Magsaysay Awards foundation presents awards in six categories: government service; public service; community leadership; journalism, literature and creative communication arts; peace and international understanding; and emergent leadership.

Joshi's citation says he has been recognised for "his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, by effectively combining 'head' and 'heart' in the transformative development of rural communities."

"The awards are named after the late president of the Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay, who died in a plane crash in 1957.

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