“Sisters and brothers,
I am very happy to be amidst all of you at The Hindu BusinessLine Changemaker Awards today.
We are gathered here to celebrate people and institutions that have been catalysts of change for the social good, and the public good.
I congratulate all winners for their outstanding work.
Your work reminds me what our Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi once said -
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
Human civilisation has been evolving since times immemorial. We have moved from the age of bullock carts to bullet trains.
Change is constant. It’s happening all around...everywhere.
But it is the role of ‘Changemakers’ like you to accelerate this process. To ensure that the benefits of this change reach the last person and uplift the lives of the poor and the downtrodden.
The word ‘Change’ explains itself. We can break it up into its components-
C is for clarity. Clarity of vision
H is for heart. Putting the heart and soul into the project
A is for adaptability – The ability to innovate keeping the local condition in view
N is for the never-to-give up approach
G is for focussing on the good of humanity
E is for Excellence – creating something of value to a larger population
When all of these attributes come together, they trigger positive CHANGE. And all Changemakers exhibit these characteristics.
In India, we have had no shortage of inspirational examples of changemakers. Many thinkers, philosophers, sportsmen, innovators, scientists, musicians and artists have changed the way we view the world and live our lives.
Chanakya changed the course of history by setting the foundation of the largest empire ever in Indian subcontinent.
Reformers like Lord Buddha, Adi Shankaracharya, Basavewara, Narayana Guru, Swami Vivekananda and Guru Nanak brought cultural renaissance in the society.
In modern times, the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was perhaps the greatest changemaker of all, transforming a people struggling under the yoke of colonial oppression into the world’s most vibrant democracy.
Similarly, the Iron Man – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel changed the destiny of nation by uniting over five hundred princely states.
Whether it is Dr Verghese Kurien, father of India’s ‘white revolution’, or today’s young start-up entrepreneurs creating billion-dollar companies through their innovation and enterprise, they are individuals who have managed to transform society around them with the power of their ideas.
They are all changemakers in their own right.
In a way, the government is also a Changemaker: in fact, it is perhaps the most impactful Changemaker, with the capacity to bring about change on a scale that few agencies can hope to.
When a poor woman in a rural area gets access to cooking gas, her life is transformed and she is rescued from the unhealthy effects of cooking with a smoky chulha. Just imagine the impact on women’s lives.
Similarly, when a village household gets access to a toilet, it is liberated from unsanitary open defecation practices and consequent diseases. Over ten crore toilets have been built so far under the government’s flagship program Swachh Bharat Mission. I am happy that this year’s Changemaker Awards include Shri Arunachalam Muruganandam - the 'padman' who transformed social attitudes to female hygiene.
When Shri Arunachalam realised that poor women were not buying sanitary napkins due to high costs, he revolutionised the menstrual health for rural women by inventing a simple machine they can use to make cheap sanitary pads.
I am told that Shri Arunachalam faced many challenges in this task. He nearly lost his family, his money and his place in society while researching on a topic that is wrongly considered a taboo in the society. But his indomitable spirit has saved many a women from the agony of reproductive diseases caused by poor menstrual hygiene.
I admire his spirit and commitment.
The Young Changemakers Pradeep Mewada has used innovative ways to bring a stop to open defecation in villages. He alongwith a group of children is spreading awareness about the problem of poor sanitation. Efforts by these children are praiseworthy.
I also appreciate the Young Changemakers Rashid, Nikhil, Arun and Vimal of Genrobotics for inventing a cheap robot to replace manual scavenging. As young professionals, your commitment to use technology for the social good is worth emulation by others.
Digital technologies hold tremendous potential for betterment of the people’s lives. I am happy to note that Government e-Marketplace (GeM) has been awarded under the Digital Transformation category. GeM has increased ease of doing business and brought transparency to government procurement by eliminating corruption.
Similarly, I compliment India Stack for winning the award in Financial Transformation category. Through your work, you created the base for transformative ideas like UPI Bhim App and Aadhaar.
Sisters and brothers,
When India grows to become a 5-trillion dollar economy, as projected, it will lift up the lives of every single Indian. In every such case, it is the government that catalyses change that can achieve these objectives. This is not change for the sake of change. It is change as a force for public good.
Today, there are many challenges that confront the countries of the world. Some of them are shared concerns: climate change – which is probably the only ‘change’ that we would rather not have – has the potential to do enormous harm to the environment, to ecosystems, to economies and to livelihoods.
More recently, the coronavirus – which has been spreading rapidly around the world – represents a serious challenge to public health in all countries. It will require the collective wisdom of scientists and policymakers everywhere to tackle all these challenges.
I have no doubt that some of the keenest minds in India are already at work to find lasting solutions to the problems that beset humanity. Perhaps one or more of them will emerge as The Hindu BusinessLine Changemaker Award winners in the future.
It is an irony that many of our changemakers remain unsung heroes. But that is no longer the case. If you see the list of Padma Awardees in recent years, many such unsung heroes have been recognised and given the respect they deserve.
Today we have honoured Smt. Shanti Raghavan of Enable India. It is inspiring to know that her organisation has placed thousands of divyang in corporate jobs.
I am happy to know that Smt. Shanti’s organization, Enable India, focuses on comprehensive development and people skills in order to ensure that differently abled candidates are well-equipped to face work challenges in the corporate sector.
She has been instrumental in building an ecosystem of skilling, employment and entrepreneurship for Divyangs.
I appreciate the jury of The Hindu BusinessLine’s Awards for recognising and celebrating these unsung heroes, who, with their vision, initiative and drive, are not only transforming the lives of people, but are also making this world a better place in the process.
I also compliment the experts from Ashoka Foundation and Deloitte along with Niiti Consulting in aiding The Hindu BusinessLine in selection and verification of the most deserving candidates for these Awards.
I am glad that The Hindu Business Line has emerged as a strong and credible voice in the field of economic and business journalism.
Before concluding, I congratulate the iconic woman athlete Ms. Dutee Chand for getting the Changemaker of the Year award today. She is a national record holder in 100 metres and a double silver medallist in the 2018 Asian Games. In 2019, she became the first Indian to win a gold medal at the world university games.
Wherever I go, I always ask the youth to keep physically fit by taking up sports or Yoga. In fact sports should form an integral part of our school curriculum.
The Government has also launched ‘Fit India’ movement towards this end. I hope that our sports luminaries like Ms. Dutee Chand will take this movement forward and inspire people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
The second ‘Changemaker of the Year’ is ISRO.
Indeed the year 2019 was one of the best years for the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Not only did ISRO make a mark in the field of space science and technology with Chandrayaan 2, but also formed interesting collaborations with industry and academia.
ISRO successfully accomplished 13 missions during the year 2019 and also launched 50 foreign satellites on commercial basis.
We should leverage the space for the collective benefit of humanity.
I hope ISRO will keep developing many more such technologies for the benefit of every section of Indian society.
Once again my best wishes to all of you for your future endeavours.