Deep Joshi (62) thought as early as in 1983 that young Indians should opt for rural development as a career option. But, there was no institution to equip them to meet the challenges of that profession.
Joshi thought of giving students a chance to work in rural India and that was how the non-government organisation, Professional Assistance for Development Action (Pradan), was born.
The Delhi-based social activist started hiring educated youngsters from different university campuses to work as apprentices in rural India for a year. More than 26 year’s later, his idea — implemented in seven states — attracted global recognition. And he has been awarded the 2009 Ramon Magsaysay award for his work in rural development.
The citation says he has been recognised for “his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, by effectively combining ‘head’ and ‘heart’ in the transformative development of rural communities.”
Joshi, however, told HT a day after receiving the award: “It (the award) is not about an individual. It is the celebration of an idea of transformative development of rural communities.”
He said, “We have IITs for producing engineers. But, don’t have a single university for teaching our students the ways to transform poor rural communities.”
Born and raised in rural Uttarakhand, Joshi said he could not figure out the need for sending a mission to the moon when one third of India’s population lives in abject poverty.
Joshi, who has double masters degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and in management from the Sloan School in the US, said, “I first saw a sanitation project in 1977 and somehow after that I was drawn to the development of the rural population”.
For him, India had the best social sector programmes. “Look at the rural health mission and the employment guarantee programme. They are the best,” he said, “But challenge is in implementing them...”