Indian social activist Deep Joshi who did pioneering work for "development of rural communities", is among six Asian achievers chosen for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay awards for 2009, considered Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
In a press release issued in Manila today, the board of trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said Joshi was being 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."
Born in a remote village in Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, Joshi earned a degree from the National Institute of Technology in Allahabad, a master's degree in engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a management degree from MIT's Sloan School and then opted to work as a Ford Foundation program officer in India.
Taking inspiration from the work of US-trained medical doctors Rajanikant and Mabelle Arole, Joshi along with some of his colleagues formed the `Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN)' in 1983.
A non-profit organization, PRADAN recruits university-educated youth from campuses across the country and grooms them to do grassroots work through a rigorous year-long apprenticeship which combines formal training and guided practice in the field. "Professionalising" development work is PRADAN's mission. Joshi says: "Civil society needs to have both head and heart. If all you have is bleeding hearts, it wouldn't work. If you only have heads, then you are going to dictate solutions which do not touch the human chord."
PRADAN staff empower village groups with technical, project implementation, and networking skills that increase both their income-generating capabilities and their actual family income.
PRADAN has produced impressive results. It has reached over 170,000 families in over 3,000 villages of India's poorest states. Over a thousand graduates have joined its apprenticeship programme. More than 300 professionals comprise its staff, most of them working in field-based teams across the country.