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Indians working for social justice get Alternate Nobel Prize

Tue, 01 Jan 2008 IANS
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Stockholm, Oct 1 (IANS) India's Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan and their organisation Land for the Tillers' Freedom (LAFTI) have been awarded the Alternate Nobel Prize 2008 for social justice and sustainable human development, an official said here.

 

They have been given the award 'for two long lifetimes of work dedicated to realising in practice the Gandhian vision of social justice and sustainable human development, for which they have been referred to as 'India's soul',' said Ole von Uexkull, executive director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

 

 

'Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan, and their organisation LAFTI (Land for the Tillers' Freedom), are awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award.'

 

 

The non-profit organisation works in Nagapattinam, Thiruvarur and East Thanjavur districts of Tamil Nadu. The award is shared with three others.

 

 

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to honour and support those 'offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today' based on the Gandhian dictum: 'There is enough in this world for every need but not for all the greed.'

 

 

It has become widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize and there are now 128 laureates from 56 countries.

 

 

Presented annually in Stockholm at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award is usually shared by four recipients. The prize money is for ongoing work, never for personal use.

 

 

LAFTI will share the 2008 Award with Amy Goodman of the US '...for developing an innovative model of truly independent political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by mainstream media.'

 

 

Asha Hagi of Somalia gets the award '...for continuing to lead at great personal risk the female participation in the peace and reconciliation process in her war-ravaged country'.

 

 

Monika Hauser of Germany is the fourth winner '...for her tireless commitment to working with women who have experienced the most horrific sexual violence in some of the most dangerous countries in the world, and campaigning for them to receive social recognition and compensation.'

 

 

Krishnammal and Sankaralingam are activists for social justice, and for sustainable human development, working with those who are at the lowest rung of the social ladder.

 

 

Krishnammal Jagannathan said: 'Vinoba Bhave, by whom my husband and I were inspired, said 'Jai Jegath' (Long Live the world). I sincerely believe that the social, economic and spiritual crisis we are facing today in the world can be overcome through universal sisterhood and science and spirituality coming together for the good of the entire humanity.'

 

 

Sankaralingam and Krishnammal decided early in their life that one of the key requirements for building a Gandhian society is empowering the rural poor by redistribution of land to the landless.

 

 

Between 1953 and 1967, the couple played an active role in the Bhoodan movement spearheaded by Vinoba Bhave, through which about four million acres of land were distributed to thousands of landless poor across several Indian states.

 

 

Much land given over under these campaigns was infertile. To make it productive Sankaralingam started in 1968 the Association of Sarva Seva Farmers (ASSEFA).

 

 

In 1981, the couple founded LAFTI, whose purpose was to bring the landlords and landless poor to the negotiating table, obtain loans to enable the landless to buy land at reasonable price and then to help them work it cooperatively, so that the loans could be repaid.

 

 

Progress was initially slow and banks were unwilling to lend and the stamp duty on the registration of small lots was exorbitant. But Krishnammal managed to overcome the political and bureaucratic hurdles. By 2007, LAFTI had transferred 13,000 acres since it began work to about 13,000 families through social action and through a land-purchase programme.

 

 

It also runs village industries, like mat-weaving, rope-making, carpentry, masonry and fishery and gives training to Dalit boys and girls.

 

 

LAFTI's economic activities are substantial: Brick kilns have been constructed and many houses built, and fish farming established on a significant scale. It was also constructively involved in the famine relief programmes in 1987 and the reconstruction programme after the tsunami in the Nagapattinam coastal area.

 

 

Before LAFTI came in, the land-site on which the landless labourers lived did not belong to them and they were often evicted by landlords or government in the name of development.

 

 

Due to its efforts, the government has enacted a bill by which the land-site on which a labourer's thatched hut is located is legally allocated to the family.

 

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Read More: Thanjavur | Nagapattinam

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