MANILA: An activist who campaigned to restore the dignity of India's low-caste Dalits was among six winners of Asia's Magsaysay awards on Wednesday.
The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award, named after a Filipino president killed in a plane crash, was established in 1957 to honour people and groups tackling development problems. It is often described as Asia's Nobel Prize.
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Bezwada Wilson, 50, founded a grassroots movement to stop "manual scavenging" -- in which Dalits, mostly women and girls, remove by hand human waste from latrines and carry away baskets of excrement on their heads.
Wilson, born to a Dalit family, was honoured for his "moral outrage" and organising skills in his efforts to ban the demeaning work, judges said.
His group has successfully lobbied for laws supporting scavengers and conducted training to move them to better jobs.
"No human being should be subjected to this inhuman practice," Wilson said.
Indian musician Thodur Madabusi Krishna, 40, won the Award for Emergent Leadership for spreading appreciation of classical music to lower castes through his foundation that trains talented rural young people.
"Music and the arts are... capable of liberating us from artificial divisions of caste and race," said Krishna, who hails from an upper-class Brahmin family.
Also honoured was Filipino chief graft-buster and former Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, 75, for her diligence in prosecuting high-ranking corrupt officials.
Three charity and volunteer groups received the award.
Vientiane Rescue won for its volunteers' "passionate humanitarianism" in improving one of Asia's worst road fatality rates by operating a free, 24/7 rescue service in Laos, the citation said.
Indonesia's biggest philanthropic group Dompet Dhuafa was cited for its transparent use of the Islamic obligatory tax known as zakat, which led to projects such as support for small and medium enterprises and scholarships.
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The Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers also received an award for sending young Japanese to 88 countries to offer expertise in areas ranging from social welfare to governance.
"The board of trustees recognises the volunteers for their idealism and spirit of service in advancing the lives of communities," judges said.
Winners received a certificate, a medallion and a cash prize.
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