Rotary Club of Belur, in partnership with RI District 3291, felicitated veteran activist, educator and social worker Sanjit Bunkar Roy, founder of the Barefoot College, with the 4-Way Test Man of the Year Award 2017 recently in Kolkata.
In 2010, Roy had made it to the list of Time magazine’s 100 most influential persons for his work in educating illiterate and semi-literate
rural Indians. He attended The Doon School from 1956 to 1962, and St Stephen’s College, Delhi from 1962 to 1967. Roy was the National runner-up in squash in 1964, and participated in three world squash championships representing India. In 1970, he married Aruna Roy.
After conducting a survey of water availability in 100 drought-prone areas, Roy established the Social Work and Research Centre in 1972. Its mission soon changed from focusing on water and irrigation to empowerment and sustainability. The programme focused on putting up water pumps near villages and training the local population to maintain them without dependence on outside mechanics, providing training as paramedics for local medical treatment, and on solar power to decrease dependence and time spent on kerosene lighting.
Time recognised him for training more than three million people in skills including solar engineers, teachers, midwives, weavers, architects and doctors.
Roy was appointed by Rajiv Gandhi to the Planning Commission. He recommended that legislation be created that would apply a “code of conduct” for non-governmental organisations. He also proposed that a national council be created that would recommend “legitimate” organisations to the government and monitor their activities. Both these recommendations were fiercely opposed as mechanisms that could be used to promote patronage of favoured groups and quell organisations that were not supportive of a particular government or party.
In 1983, he was the plaintiff in Roy v State of Rajasthan in which the Supreme Court struck down an emergency policy which had allowed women famine relief workers to be paid less than male workers. Roy has spoken at TED conference, in which he talked about how the Barefoot College “helps rural communities become self-sufficient”.
The 4-Way Test Award consists of a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and a citation. PRID Shekhar Mehta was the chief guest at this event.
Earlier recipients of this prize are Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar, Ramanand Sagar, V Kurien, Maneka Gandhi, N R Narayan Murthy, Pandit Birju Maharaj and Dr Devi Prasad Shetty.