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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Our prizes indicate the intellectual shift from West to East

After Irom Sharmila last year, Anna Hazare wins IIPM's 2011 Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize of Rs. 1cr. To be handed over on 9th May

The Bharatiya Manavata Vikas Puraskar, an initiative by the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), honours those intrepid and inspirational souls who set examples by being the change they wanted to see. Dr. Malay Chaudhuri, founder director of IIPM and chairman,IIPM awards committee, shares the vision behind this mission of invoking in each Indian the wisdom and will to touch lives, and make the nation proud.

(1.) What is the vision behind the awards?

In the very first prospectus of IIPM, way back in 1974, we wrote that the aim of the institute is to devDr. M Chaudhurielop a three dimensional personality. We shall not only make experts in the field of management, but also help students cultivate the taste for literature, arts and inculcate within them a commitment to society. The moment we found the opportunity, we took the initiative to award those from the field of literature – and thus started the Surama Chowdhury Memorial International Prize in Literature (in 2008).

The prize money ($100,000) was almost double the amount awarded for Magsaysay Award (also known as the Nobel Prize of Asia) instituted by Philippines. In 2010, we instituted the Rabindranath Tagore Memorial International Prize, the total award money for which (1.1 million euros) slightly exceeded the one for the Nobel Prize for Literature (1 million euros). Thereby, we emphasised our right to go beyond Western values while deciding what good literature is. The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Barack Obama who in reality did not take any peace initiatives. It was expected of him to take some peace initiative in Afghanistan. We now know that he initiated bombings in Afghanistan and even parts of Pakistan by sending drones.

Instead, people like Dr Binayak Sen and Irom Sharmila should have been considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. We may soon initiate the founding of the Tagore Memorial International Peace Award, with a minimum award purse of 1.1 million euros. Thereby, we shall challenge the right of the West to decide what may be considered as a ‘peace initiative’. Our prizes indicate the intellectual shift from the West to the East.

How soon do we see the Bharatiya Manavata Vikas Puraskar going international?

We shall do that soon. We want to see recipients of these awards from various other nations.

(2.) Do you think the government has gone wrong with the whole Binayak Sen episode?

Kiran BediOur government is known more for corruption and wrongdoings. It is the characteristic of the government that those who fight for the poor are victimised and sent to jail. Therefore, let me not comment on what the government should do or not do. We want and demand that they, at least, release people like Dr Binayak Sen from jail so that such individuals can carry on with their peaceful activities, namely, helping the poorest of the poor in the field of health and nutrition.

In fact, not only Dr Binayak Sen, but all our awardees have done excellent work in their chosen fields. They deserve to be icons for our youth. We are very careful in choosing our awardees. They are not necessarily people who are well known. For example, Ms Prakash Kaur was someone we read about in The Sunday Indian. After reading the story, we thought that this lady has not been recognised and she is engaged in one of the most inspiring activities. Such are the people we want everyone to know about and take inspiration from.

(3.) What is your message to today’s youth?

Dr. Malay ChaudhuriThe system is not democratic since it is not based on equity and peace. It is easy to manipulate illiterate masses to create vote banks and win elections. No political party thinks of the poor.

Children should be taught from childhood onwards that they should not be a prey of greed; that they should share with the poor who are also entitled to a life of dignity.
If India’s upper middle class and rich sections stay away from obscene, vulgar, conspicuous consumption, the poor could be provided with adequate food, education, health and social security, and thus they may escape suffering from malnutrition. 17% of our population, namely, every sixth Indian dies before he/she is forty. The youth of India must change all this. They must.

In pictures:

(1.) Dr Malay Chaudhuri lighting the inaugural lamp to the Bharatiya Manavata Vikas Puraskar evebt; in the background is Swami Shantatmananda Maharaj of Ramakrishna Mission.
(2.) Dr. Kiran Bedi, one of the recipients of the Bharatiya Manavata Vikas Puraskar.
(3.) Dr. Malay Chaudhuri

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