By Nereshnee Govender
Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi was awarded the Padma Bushan award by the Indian Government on 24 March 2007. The award for outstanding community service is India 's third highest civilian honour and was conferred by Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at his home in New Delhi.
Gandhi’s award was in recognition of the work that is being done to promote Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy in South Africa. A former social worker, Gandhi has researched and produced several exhibitions on Gandhian thought on sustainable development and on the birth of Satyagraha – non-violent action.
Gandhi’s daughter Ashish Ramgobin says that the family is exceptionally proud of her achievements. “My mum does not just promote Gandhian values and traditions verbally but she lives his message and shows how to keep his values alive. We can only hope to emulate her,” added Ramgobin.
The prestigious award which was established in 1954 is given to individuals for distinguished service in many fields including literature and education, social work, medicine, science and engineering. The function was attended by many high profile people including India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet as well as the United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Indian Consul Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that they are very happy that the eminent award has been given to someone from Durban. Shringla added, “Ela has always had the welfare and well – being of the Indian community in South Africa at heart.” “The award is a richly deserved recognition of her value and long standing contribution not just in promoting Gandhian values in South Africa and abroad but her contribution to the fight against apartheid, contribution to social causes and world peace.”
eThekwini Deputy Mayor, Logie Naidoo says “We as a nation are honoured that one of our daughters have been acknowledged by the Indian Government for her outstanding work. She walks in the footsteps of the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.” Naidoo describes Gandhi as a symbol of hope, peace, tolerance and co-existence. “She is focused and driven by the needs and desires of the people – her heart lies with the community”, adds Naidoo.
Paddy Kearney, trustee of the Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) says “On behalf of the members of GDT I would like to congratulate Ela on this award by the Indian Government. It is ‘well deserved’ in recognition of the outstanding work she has done to promote the Mahatma’s philosophy of nonviolence. We are all delighted.”
Gandhi has also recently been appointed Chancellor of the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Her 4-year term commenced on April 1, 2007. Roy Raju Director of Library Services at DUT says, “I am very excited and thrilled that a lady of her stature has been appointed chancellor of the institution. It is a very deserving appointment.”
Gandhi represented the African National Congress in Parliament from 1994-2003. She resigned from Parliament to continue with her community work. She is the founder and chairperson of the Gandhi Development Trust and Satyagraha. Gandhi is a member on the board of trustees of Phoenix Community Centre, ANC’s Commission on Religious Affairs, Chairperson of the Mahatma Gandhi Salt March Organising Committee and Honorary International president of the World Conference on Religion and Peace(WCRP).
Satyagraha staff would also like to congratulate Ela Gandhi on her recent achievements and wish her all the best for the future.