It was an event to remember the highest independently instituted civilian honour that salutes people, projects and institutions, which went the extra mile to make India better. Over the past seven years that the Skoch Challenger Awards have been conferred, the mighty and the ordinary have shared this platform for their extraordinary achievements in contributing to society.
The Skoch Challenger Awards cover the best of efforts in the area of social, digital and financial inclusion. They encompass e-governance, look at excellence in academics,capacity building, empowerment and other such softer issues that normally get lost in the glamour and glitz of industry sponsored or advertising focused jamborees.
The Skoch Challenger Awards were conferred at the culmination of the 19th Skoch Summit, which sought to highlight the criticality of dovetailing security and emergency responses into the economic and development growth scenarios. The Skoch Challenger Awards are coveted for their independence, primary research and a distinguished jury based approach. No industry or government support or endorsement is accepted or expected for the Skoch Challenger Awards and they remain independently instituted and conferred as a third party perspective.
The Skoch Challenger Lifetime Achievement Award for 2009 was conferred on Sam Pitroda for ushering in the telecom and IT revolution in India. The telecom czar received the award during a glittering function at New Delhi amidst applause and standing ovation by a house packed with over 450 people. Pitroda was instrumental in helping kick-start software exports from India and providing economies of scale to computer manufacturing in India. Through his mantra of indigenous manufacturing, shared access, rural telephony and using the power of young talent, he made the rural telephone exchange and the Public Call Office (PCO) at every nook and corner of India happen.
Skoch Challenger Awards 2009 Categories
- Education & Employability
- Exemplary use of Technology
- Financial Inclusion
- Public Private Partnerships
- Security & Disaster Management
- Special Category:
- Lifetime Achievement
- National Significance
- Inclusion Champion of the Year
- Grassroots Person of the Year
- Change Management Person of the Year
On the occasion, a biographical film “Sam Pitroda: The Dreamer” – produced by Skoch – was screened.The film brought together a galaxy of personalities who knew and had worked with Pitroda over the years – each recounting a special experience or anecdote. In his address, a visibly moved Pitroda acknowledged and thanked all those who had supported him over the years and detailed how his return to India was a dream come true.
The Person of the Year Award was conferred on Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner for strengthening the Right to Information through the institution of the Central Information Commission and bringing about a new era of transparency, accountability and disclosures in all public works. Just a few years ago, it was unimaginable for the common man to inspect public works or records; take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; or take certified samples of material. Habibullah’s pro-active role has altered the situation altogether.
The award for National Significance in the Governance category went to Subas Pani, Secretary, Planning Commission, who is credited with computerising the electoral rolls of India, connecting all electoral counting centres, use of Indian languages in ICT applications, introduction of Voter ID Cards, and the Electronic Voting Machines.
The e-Governance award went to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), which has set an example for other urban local bodies by introducing IT initiatives that focus on providing best civic services to its 12.7 million citizens
This year’s awards had a new category in Security and Disaster Management. Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, was recognised for setting up of a state-of-the-art Tsunami Warning Centre and developing an entire tsunami warning system suited for India.Among the other firsts to his credit is the development of marine GIS for the country and generation of database for coastal zone management.
PNB CMD, K C Chakrabarty received the Inclusion Champion of the Year Award for demonstrating how the rural poor can be pulled into the mainstream by a little innovation. Partnering with the Panchayat of Tineri village in Bihar – for financial literacy – PNB’s branchless banking facility has liberated the people from the clutches of local moneylenders while inculcating a banking habit.
Bimalendu Chakrabarti, CMD, New India Assurance was honored for Change Management in recognition of the multifarious change initiatives unleashed by him in the company, that include, short, medium and longterm goals with focus on 3Cs – cost of processing; claims pay-out; and, customer servicing. The Oriental Insurance Company was recognised for Innovation in Financial Inclusion. Oriental Insurance has taken a lead in insuring the un-insured – providing Universal Health Insurance cover for cashless mediclaim to the underprivileged in rural areas and urban slums.cashless mediclaim to the underprivileged in rural areas and urban slums.
Civil society too came in for accolades.SEWA Bank, with 800,000 members and 21 micro-saving products, was recognised for financial inclusion and livelihood initiatives. SEWA Bank today has emerged as an organisation of poor,self-employed women workers that gives inspiration to other underprivileged people – largely women – to organise themselves.
The Aarogyasri Health Care Trust was awarded for its health insurance model in Andhra Pradesh , which has covered more than 65 million people below the poverty line. The scheme is being run by the Trust under a public-private-partnership that includes a private insurer, public and private hospitals, women’s Self-Help Groups and the state government.
The Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) was awarded in the field of Education for its unique Adult Literacy Programme among the nomadic Van Gujjar community in the Himalayan foothills. Initially, 350-trained volunteer teachers of RLEK travelled with the community during their trans-migratory cycle from the foothills of the Himalayas to the higher alpines in order to ensure continuity of the education programme. The uniqueness of the programme lies in community participation and holding of classes under the canopy of trees by barefoot teachers.
The Intel Education Initiative was hailed as a model Public- Private-Partnership. Launched in 2004, Intel’s Teach and Learn Program has reached more than 88,000 learners across 24 states and four Union Territories in India.
The Passport Control & Issuance System, an indigenous, robust and low-cost application developed and implemented by National Informatics Centre, bagged the award for Exemplary Use of Technology. The passport application not only connects all the passport offices in the country but also the foreign missions and the data resides in a central database. Overseas requests like renewal, lost passports or even visa applications are routinely monitored and disposed off on a daily basis