Two Indians win this year's Magsaysay awards

The awards have recognised the contribution of Anshu Gupta, who uses cloth to transform the lives of people, and Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the bureaucrat who exposed top AIIMS officials

By Rajeshwari Ganesan
Published: Wednesday 29 July 2015

India’s Anshu Gupta and Sanjiv Chaturvedi have been selected for this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award. While Gupta has been recognised by the Magsaysay foundation for "his enterprising leadership in treating cloth as a sustainable development resource for the poor", Chaturvedi has received the honour for his "exemplary integrity, courage and tenacity in uncompromisingly exposing and painstakingly investigating corruption in public life”.

Laurels are not new to Gupta, who was also named India’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 by Schwab Foundation, a sister organisation of the World Economic Forum. Hailing from Dehradun, Gupta worked as a freelance journalist after completing Master’s degrees in economics and journalism and mass communication. In 1999, he left his corporate job to start an NGO, Goonj, from Sarita Vihar in Delhi and developed a "Cloth for Work" programme to initiate village-level development activities.

Goonj also works in areas such as disaster relief, humanitarian aid and community development. It has a "School to School" programme, under which books, recycled stationery, bags, tiffin boxes and water bottles are supplied to schools in villages. Volunteers with the NGO say, "The award is an honour for him and all of us associated with Goonj. Gupta believes that when someone receives clothes in charity, it deprives the person of self-respect. He wants people to work and earn them."  

Gupta is also credited with recycling clothes into sanitary napkins. About 2.5 million such pads had been distributed at Rs 2 a piece till last year. Volunteers says the initiative brought girls who had dropped out of a school in Bihar back to class after their school was supplied with the pads.

The other winner is Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi. He is the fourth Indian to receive a Magsaysay in the Emergent Leadership category.

A 2002 batch IFS officer, Chaturvedi was allotted the Haryana cadre. During his first posting at Kurukshetra, he exposed a corrupt contractor involved in construction of the Hansi Butana canal, which threatened the critical Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary. He also booked a group of influential contractors working on the canal for illegally felling trees, poaching protected animals and destructing the habitat inside the sanctuary.

He was then sent on a "punishment" posting to Fatehabad and in August 2007 he was suspended for "insubordination" in the same case by the state government. The Haryana Forest Department, however, had to take steps to prosecute the contractors on the basis of the reports Chaturvedi had filed. 

Between 2005 and 2010, he was transferred 12 times. On Central deputation, he was appointed the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of AIIMS, Delhi, in June 2012. In August 2014, he was removed from the post by the then Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, reportedly, for exposing the misuse of the hospital facilities by officials and politicians. While he is still on the rolls of AIIMS as a deputy secretary, he told Down To Earth that he was "jobless".

"My reappointment case is pending in court and I shall start work as and when the court issues a directive. I am honoured to be awarded the Magsaysay," he says. "I am being awarded for my fight against corruption. The award motivates me and I shall relentlessly pursue my fight."

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