President Pratibha Patil on Thursday presented the Jamnalal Bajaj Awards for 2010 for outstanding contributions in social development. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Governor K. Sankaranarayanan were present at the occasion.

“The objective of these awards is to encourage, recognise and reward outstanding people who have given their lives for Gandhian ideas. We want millions to get inspired by them,” said Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation chairperson Rahul Bajaj.

Chewang Norphel, a 74-year-old civil engineer from Ladakh, was presented the award for application of science and technology for rural development. His ‘artificial glacier' has helped farmers in the dry and difficult region of Ladakh get water supply in April and May — the most crucial period of sowing.

Mr. Norphel's 20-year-old innovation has received many awards and recognition. “A team from Chile had recently visited me to emulate this project in their country. People want to implement it in Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh,” he said.

Mr. Norphel artificially creates a glacier at an altitude 4,000-5,000 feet lower than a natural glacier. “A lot of water is wasted during winter. So, I tried diverting a channel from the main stream. In this way, the glacial run-off is stored at different altitudes above the village. When spring is to arrive, the artificial glaciers melt first, ensuring water supply for crops.”The natural glaciers start melting only after mid-June.

Chunibhai Vaidya, a nonagenarian from Ahmedabad, was given the award for outstanding contribution in the field of constructive work. The oldest living Gandhian, Mr. Vaidya has been active in many movements in Gujarat and Rajasthan for betterment of the poor and the marginalised. He has also authored several books.

Water supply

Mr. Vaidya was instrumental in providing drinking water supply to more than 352 villages in Gujarat. He has also mobilised social groups for various activities, like de-silting canals. “We are moving towards a very unjust society, where the distribution of resources in not equal. The government does not own the resources, the community does. We will fight for a just society.”

The award for development and welfare of women and children was given to Shakuntala Choudhary, a nonagenarian from Assam. She has trained thousands of gram sevikas through Kasturba Centres throughout the State, and also worked for maintaining peaceful and harmonious relations among various social groups.

The award for promoting Gandhian values outside India was given to Lia Diskin from Brazil. Ms. Diskin has formed a non-governmental organisation for community-oriented programmes in education, healthcare, human rights, environmental preservation, social welfare and cultural peace.

She has also been organising ‘Gandhi Week' since the past 28 years.

The winners were chosen from 124 nominations across the world.