Today in New Delhi, India
Dec 11, 2018-Tuesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Honouring Peace Activist

Activist Sandeep Pandey was honoured at the Tenth Annual ICA Recognition Dinner, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2005 19:35 IST

Dr Sandeep Pandey an outspoken peace activist, founder of Asha for Education and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee was honoured at the Tenth Annual ICA (Indians for Collective Action) Recognition Dinner on Sunday, October 2 at the Westin Hotel in Santa Clara, California.

The informal networking session was followed by the dinner and award ceremony. Highlights on ICA's past and ongoing work were preceded by the award ceremony. Abhay Bhushan, President of ICA said, "We are immensely pleased to present our 2005 recognition award to Sandeep for his life's work dedicated to education of marginalised children, promoting communal harmony in India, nuclear disarmament and India-Pakistan peace."

After admirable introductions as a mentor, a friend and an activist by several ICA members and others, Pandey spoke about the grassroots work being done by him and workers of the Asha Ashram. He talked about initiatives including Janta Janch for unobstructed right to information of governmental records, right to information campaign in Hardoi in UP and other interesting and humorous anecdotes on struggles and surprises of everyday activist work.

He also enumerated several tales on corrupt or unethical practices by government employees including schoolteachers and the growing public unrest with the current circumstances. On a realistic note, he said, "In India nothing gets done in the normal course. You have to either pay a bribe or use political influence or resort to protests."

Pandey's association with ICA and Bay Area goes back more than a decade when he founded Asha for Education during his student days at Berkeley with two friends. Today, the organisation has 35 chapters in India, US and several other countries.

At 37, he has been the youngest Indian to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award. At the Asha Ashram near Lucknow, students live and study among working communities of artisans and learn trades with their r's. The ashram also works to overcome caste barriers, publicises official corruption in the local areas and develops appropriate technologies for the rural regions.

In the question and answer session on help by the Diaspora, Sandeep opined, "monetary help by the NRIs is great for the various development projects in India but beyond that more enlightened, spirited and idealistic people are needed to work at the grassroots." He specifically complemented the work of the district magistrate of Sitapur, Amod Kumar, who has setup a web site for tracking complaints about the governmental system and functioning and has opened access for record transparency.

ICA is a 40-year-old Bay Area based non-profit organisation with about 700 active donors dedicated to grass roots development and poverty alleviation programmes in India. The group functions as a small, catalyst organisation working for social change in India via committed Diaspora in the US and members in India. "ICA has stayed small and focused to fearlessly address social, educational, and environmental issues while supporting innovative development projects in over 16 states of India," says Abhay Bhushan. In the last four decades, ICA has mentored and spawned several successful NGO's such as Asha for Education, Foundation for Excellence (FFE), American Indian Foundation (AIF) and others.

ICA provides seed funding, ongoing financial resources, moral and technical support to secular, democratic and non-partisan NGO's running innovative, community based development initiatives. Projects with creative approaches towards women's empowerment, health welfare, micro-credit, water management, environmental protection, income generation, and democratic reforms through awareness campaigns and access to information are ICA's focus. Last year, the group disbursed $132,853 to the varied projects.

Some of the many projects supported by ICA include Action for Health Welfare in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, The Action Northeast Trust in Assam, eGovernment Foundation in Bangalore, Lok Satta in Andhra Pradesh, National Youth Project in Uttaranchal; Samaj Pragati Sahyog in Madhya Pradesh, Samrakshan Public Charitable Trust in Madhya Pradesh, Baikanthapura Tarun Sangha in West Bengal, Vidya Integrated Development for Youth and Adults in Delhi, Mumbai and Goa and Ruchika Social Service Organisation working with marginalised street and slum children in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.

Past recipients of ICA's recognition award that includes a sum of $5,000 have included Dr Mallika Sarabhai in 2004, Dr Jayaprakash Narayan in 2002, Dr SN Subba Rao and Mrs Sushma Iyengar in 2001.

First Published: Oct 06, 2005 00:00 IST