NRI cabbie crusader wins Ford Foundation award | india | Hindustan Times
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NRI cabbie crusader wins Ford Foundation award

Bhairavi Desai of New York is among the 17 awardees chosen from a pool of nearly 1,000 nominations.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2005 11:58 IST

Indian-American Bhairavi Desai, who leads a diverse population of New York taxi drivers in their fight for fair treatment, has won the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World Award.

Desai, executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance, is among the 17 awardees chosen from a pool of nearly 1,000 nominations.

Each awardee will receive $100,000 to advance their work and an additional $15,000 for educational opportunities to strengthen their individual or organisational effectiveness over the course of two years.

Desai, 31, is the daughter of Indian immigrants who now live in New Jersey. Her father worked in a shop and her mother in a factory. "I remember being chased down the street because of my colour," Desai was quoted as saying in a recent interview. The hostility, she said, politicised her.

Four years after graduating from Rutgers University, she co-founded New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), the organisation she now heads. Desai says the people she serves inspire and motivate her. "Through taxi drivers, I have learned the true meanings of honesty and humour, forgiveness and fairness, the maturity to handle difficulties with grace, and, at all times, the importance of dignity.

"The drivers reminded me of the town in which I grew up, where I learned to struggle, fight hunger and poverty, and see the dignity of the working class."

Desai's efforts today flow from a historic taxi drivers' work stoppage in 1998 that she was primarily responsible for organising. For one day, 40,000 drivers parked their taxis and refused to work in New York City.