President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, presented the Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the presence of the Prime Minister and other dignitaries, at a function held at Rashtrapati Bhavan today (February 26, 2019).
The Gandhi Peace Prize was presented to the Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari for 2015, jointly to the Akshaya Patra Foundation and the Sulabh International for 2016, to the Ekal Abhiyan Trust for 2017, and to Shri Yohei Sasakawa for 2018.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that Gandhian thinking, Gandhian modes of struggle and Gandhian ideals of achieving human liberty by conciliation, by appealing to the conscience of the opponent, have influenced some of the greatest of our age. From Martin Luther King Jr in the United States to Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Lech Walesa in Poland, a dazzling galaxy of statespersons has learnt and borrowed from Gandhiji.
Gandhiji and his thoughts are invaluable to any understanding of contemporary human history, and of the quest to redress oppression and inequity.
The President said that Mahatma Gandhi remains relevant to 21st century concerns as well. In his advocacy of sustainability, ecological sensitivity and living in harmony with nature, he anticipated some of the pressing challenges of our times.
The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations are Gandhian philosophy in action. India’s pivotal role in the International Solar Alliance and its domestic Swachh Bharat Mission – aimed at the universalisation of modern sanitation – too are reflective of Gandhiji.
Pointing to the contributions made by the awardees, the President said that the Vivekananda Centre has promoted self-help, sustainability and development throughout our country, especially in areas populated by tribal communities.
It has built capacities in education and health, and in a sensitive and meaningful approach to rural development and harnessing of natural resources.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation has advanced education and cognition by working to remove hunger and enhance nutrition. It has leveraged modern technology to provide quality meals to schoolchildren. The Sulabh International and its founder Dr Bindeshwar Pathak were sanitation pioneers, advocating the merits of sanitation and advocating toilets in days and years when not many others were.
The Ekal Abhiyan Trust is helping 2.2 million children – 52 per cent of them girls – access education. Many of its initiatives benefit tribal communities. Mr Yohei Sasakawa has been instrumental in helping us win crucial battles in the war against leprosy – to prevent and eradicate the disease, and to end stigma and discrimination.