The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind presented the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 at a function in Rashtrapati BHawan today (26.02.2019). The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi also attended the function and felicitated the awardees. The Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge), Dr. Mahesh Sharma and other dignitaries were present on the occasion. 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 (from Japan) 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.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. The Akshaya Patra Foundation has advanced education and cognition by working to remove hunger and enhance nutrition. 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. 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.
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister congratulated all those who have been conferred the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize. He noted that the prize is being conferred at a time when India marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The Prime Minister expressed happiness that on this occasion, the devotional hymn Vaishnav Jan To, which was so dear to Bapu, had been rendered by artistes in about 150 countries across the world. He said this is an indication that the world accepts the relevance of Gandhi’s ideals, even today. The Prime Minister spoke of Mahatma Gandhi’s commitment to Swachhta and how he had merged the streams of Jan Bhagidari (public participation) and Jan Andolan (mass movement).In his welcome address, the Minister of State for Culture (IC), Dr. Mahesh Sharma said that it is appropriate that these awards are being given at a time when the nation is celebrating the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The award is dedicated to the ideals and principles of peace and harmony propagated by the Mahatma. The Culture Minister further said that Bapu’s mantra extended from Satyagraha to Swachhagraha and he is a true apostle of peace in this world troubled by turmoil and divisiveness.The awardees said that they feel honoured to receive such a prestigious award and they are inspired to work in their areas of excellence with renewed encouragement, carrying forward the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.Gandhi Peace Prize for Social, Economic and Political transformation through Non-violence was instituted in the year 1995. The Award comprises an amount of Rs. One Crore and a Citation. The Jury of the Gandhi Peace Prize is a high level committee headed by the Prime Minister of India.This annual award is given to individuals, associations, institutions or organizations who have worked selflessly for peace, non-violence and amelioration of human sufferings particularly of the less-privileged section of society contributing towards social justice and harmony. The Award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or gender.