The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation had picked former Kerala health minister K K Shailaja for the 64th Magsaysay award. Shailaja was considered for the award for her performance as state health minister from 2016 to 2021, a period which saw Kerala fight against the Nipah virus and Covid-19.
Why did she turn down the award?
However, the ex-minister has turned down the award on following ground —
- Ramon Magsaysay was a known oppressor of Communists; and
- The fight against Covid in Kerala was collective.
- The fight against Covid-19 was not the achievement of any single person. Generally, political leaders are not considered for the Magsaysay award.
Who was ‘Ramon Magsaysay’?
- Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay Senior was the seventh president of the Philippines, from 1953 until his death in an air crash in 1957.
- He came to prominence during the 2nd world war when Japanese forces occupied the Philippines — then a colony of the US — for nearly four years.
- As a guerrilla leader resisting the Japanese occupation, Magsaysay’s bravery and leadership saw his appointment as a military governor.
- In December, 1953, he was elected president from the Nationalist Party, the oldest political party in the Philippines.
Communism and Magsaysay –
- Philippines plunged into post-war chaos after 1946. Also, during this period, with the expansion of capitalism, the gap between the rich and poor widened and the farmers continued to languish.
- As the country was a close ally of USA, many leaders were viewed with suspicion over their declaration of commitment to communism and the demand for peasant rights.
- The then government of Philippines started severe crackdown on these leaders.
- It was under the administrative and military policies of Magsaysay that the threat from communism was considered to be neutralised.
About the ‘Ramon Magsaysay Award’ –
- Launched in 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is widely considered to be Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
- The award is given to individuals and organisations in Asia for selfless service to society in various fields.
- The award was set up by trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Philippine government to carry forward Magsaysay’s legacy of service to the people, good governance, and pragmatic idealism.
- The award is given out every year on August 31, on Magsaysay’s birth anniversary.
- The awardees are presented with a certificate and a medal with an image of Ramon Magsaysay.
Indian winners on the list –
- Prominent Indians who have won the award include Vinoba Bhave in 1958, Mother Teresa in 1962, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay in 1966, Satyajit Ray in 1967, Mahasweta Devi in 1997.
- In recent years, Arvind Kejriwal (2006), Anshu Gupta of Goonj (2015), human rights activist Bezwada Wilson (2016), and journalist Ravish Kumar (2019) have won the award.