Nobel prize focuses deep-rooted ills

The Nobel Peace Prize committee has again done the unexpected, yanking from his low-profile existence an Indian child rights activist into the world’s media glare. Kailash Satyarthi’s fight against child labour has won him the biggest supporter in the world and a Peace Prize to boot. Though not that much of a surprise, the other Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and her gutsy fight for girls’ education in Pakistan too have received the backing of the globe’s most-coveted award.  Over the years, the choices of the Nobel Peace Prize committee have been controversial on many occasions. The committee has been accused of pandering to political considerations and its motives have been dubbed dubious. The 2009 award to Barack Obama soon after he took over as United States president was ridiculed while the award to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the next year had Beijing crying foul.  Also, the definition of “peace” has been freely interpreted by the Nobel committee to include the work of social activists, political dissidents and environmentalists among others. Alfred Nobel had originally envisaged the peace prize for those who had "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".  Also, the Peace Prize is decided in Norway, not Sweden, by a committee made up largely of politicians giving rise to questions over the motives behind selecting the winners. 

This year’s choice will rank among the least controversial as the prize highlights two extremely important issues that dog large parts of the world – education for the girl child and trafficking of children. If Yousafzai  was almost killed by the Taliban for backing girls’ education in Pakistan, Satyarthi has rescued not less than 70,000 children from a life of serfdom and rehabilitated them across India – both activities requiring unswerving commitment and courage. The Nobel committee this year also gave the peace prize an added dimension by singling out an Indian and a Pakistani to share the award.  In doing so, the committee snubbed the governments of both countries who periodically indulge in mutual war games, name calling and end up stoking tensions among their citizens. The award, in this context, has attempted to draw the attention of the two countries and the rest of the world to the unique fight by two common individuals against deep-rooted social problems that require the immediate attention of law makers. It has also given a message to the two governments that their time and power can be better spent raising the quality of life of their people.

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