Deserving award

 Social activist Deep Joshi’s work for development of rural communities in India richly deserves the honour of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award.Co-founder of the NGO, Professional Assistance for Development Action (Pradan), Joshi has touched the lives of lakhs of India’s rural poor. Pradan promotes self-help groups, develops sustainable economic activities and mobilises finances for small enterprises. Thousands of people in villages who were unemployed or dependent on daily wage labour have their own small enterprises thanks to Pradan and Joshi’s vision. Besides reducing rural poverty, Joshi has tapped into the potential that India’s educated offer. Pradan has been recruiting youth from university campuses across the country and grooming them to work at the grassroots after a year-long apprenticeship which combines formal training with guided practice in the field. In the process it has brought a new professionalism to development work and provided rural India with their expertise. It is this vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, that the board of trustees of the Magsaysay Foundation have recognised and honoured with the prize.

As inspiring as Joshi’s work is his life. Joshi studied in some of India’s and the world’s most prestigious educational institutions. He could have got himself a corporate job of his choice and led a comfortable life in the West. He chose to return to India and that too to its villages. And that choice has made a positive difference to around 1,70,000 families in 3,000 villages in some of India’s poorest states.

Through Pradan’s achievements Joshi has shown that professionalism in development work is rewarding. NGO workers often dismiss qualities like professionalism as more suited to the corporate world. They claim that sensitivity and work are enough to bring social change. This is not so as evident from the fact that many NGOs have failed to make an impact despite their considerable funding and hard work because they are unprofessional in their functioning and inefficient with their finances. Activists often argue that they should be allowed to work and not be bound by rules and regulations. In short, they like to be unaccountable. The Magsaysay Award to Joshi should spotlight his approach and encourage others to follow.

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