MANILA: Two Indians – Carnatic singer T M Krishna and prolific campaigner for eradication of manual scavenging Bezwada Wilson – were today chosen for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2016 along with four others.
Wilson, the national convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), has been named as an awardee for “asserting the inalienable right to a life of human dignity” while Krishna was chosen for the award under the ‘Emergent Leadership’ category for bringing “social inclusiveness in culture”.
Four others who have been selected for the award are – Conchita Carpio-Morales of the Philippines, Dompet Dhuafa of Indonesia, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and ‘Vientiane Rescue’ of Laos.
40-year-old Krishna has been hailed in the citation as “showing that music can indeed be a deeply transformative force in personal lives and society itself.”
Krishna, born to a privileged, Brahmin family in Chennai, was trained from the age of six in the aristocratic Carnatic music under masters of the form.
“In electing Thodur Madabusi Krishna to receive the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his forceful commitment as artist and advocate to art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions, breaking barriers of caste and class to unleash what music has to offer not just for some but for all,” the citation said.
The other Indian award recipient, 50-year-old Wilson, born into a dalit family involved in manual scavenging in Kolar Gold Fields township in Karnataka, was the first in his family to pursue a higher education.
“Manual scavenging is blight on humanity in India. Consigned by structural inequality to the dalits, India’s ‘untouchables’, manual scavenging is the work of removing by hand human excrement from dry latrines and carrying on the head the baskets of excrement to designated disposal sites,” states Wilson’s citation.
“Treated as an outcast in school and acutely aware of his family’s lot, Bezwada was filled with great anger; but he would later channel this anger to a crusade to eradicate manual scavenging,” the citation said.
Wilson has spent 32 years on his “crusade, leading not only with a sense of moral outrage but also with remarkable skills in mass organizing, and working within India’s complex legal system.”
“In electing Bezwada Wilson to receive the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his moral energy and prodigious skill in leading a grassroots movement to eradicate the degrading servitude of manual scavenging in India, reclaiming for the dalits the human dignity that is their natural birthright,” the citation said.
Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is considered Asia’s highest honor.
It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine President after whom the award is named, and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late Filipino leader.–PTI