Speaking while presenting the Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the presence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, Kovind hailed Gandhi as a visionary.
The Gandhi Peace Prize was presented to the Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari for 2015, jointly to the Akshaya Patra Foundation and the Sulabh International for 2016, to the Ekal Abhiyan Trust for 2017, and to Yohei Sasakawa for 2018.
"Gandhian modes of struggle and Gandhian ideals of achieving human liberty by conciliation, by appealing to the conscience of the opponent, have influenced some of the greatest of our age. From Martin Luther King Jr in the United States to Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Lech Walesa in Poland, a dazzling galaxy of statespersons has learnt and borrowed from Gandhi-ji. Gandhi-ji and his thoughts are invaluable to any understanding of contemporary human history, and of the quest to redress oppression and inequity," he said.
Kovind further said that in his advocacy of sustainability, ecological sensitivity and living in harmony with nature, he anticipated some of the pressing challenges of the present times. "The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations are Gandhian philosophy in action. India's pivotal role in the International Solar Alliance and its domestic Swachh Bharat Mission – aimed at the universalisation of modern sanitation – too are reflective of Gandhi-ji," he added.
Pointing to the contributions made by the awardees, the President said the Vivekananda Centre has promoted self-help, stainabilities and development throughout the country, especially in areas populated by tribal communities.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation has advanced education and cognition by working to remove hunger and enhance nutrition. It has leveraged modern technology to provide quality meals to schoolchildren, he said, while the Sulabh International and its founder Bindeshwar Pathak were sanitation pioneers.
Kovind said the Ekal Abhiyan Trust is helping 2.2 million children – 52 per cent of them girls – access education. "The prize is being conferred at a time when India marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi...The freedom struggle became a mass movement due to the visionary efforts of Bapu. He merged the streams of Jan Bhagidari and Jan Andolan. Bapu instilled a spirit in every person that they are doing something for India's freedom," said Modi.