M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award

The M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award presentation ceremony was held at 04.30pm on 10th August 2010, the birth anniversary of Dr. M.A. Thomas at the Student Christian Movement Hall, Bangalore.   Dr. Mani Chacko, Secretary, Board of Trustees of VIM welcomed the distinguished guests, invitees and the vigil group members for the ceremony. 

The programme was chaired by Adv. K. Pratap Reddy, President of Vigil India Movement.  The Chief Guest of the function was Honourable Justice S.R. Nayak, Chairperson of Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and the former Judge, Chhattisgarh State.  Dr. M.J. Joseph, Managing Trustee, Dr. Mathews George, Honorary Director, Justice Bopanna, Mr. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli, Mrs. Anila George and Mrs. Shyla Nair, Board of Trustees of VIM were also present.

Adv. K. Pratap Reddy made the presidential remarks.  He said that Fr. Jacob. P.J deserves the honour for his effortless service and extraordinary contribution for the empowerment of people in Northern Karnataka.  He also briefly summarized the synopsis of M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award and listed out the previous awardees.   Mrs. Anila George, read out the citation consists of Fr. Jacob’s achievements. 

After reading the Citation, the Honourable Justice S.R. Nayak presented the award to Fr. Jacob. P.J.  The award cash prize of Rs. 100.000/- and a memorable Citation.    After presenting the award, Justice S.R. Nayak appreciated Fr. Jacob.P.J. Catholic Diocese of Belgaum for his work among the vulnerable communities in Dharward.

In his address, Justice Nayak expressed his concern over the poor, downtrodden and the city slum dwellers that were forced to live in unhygienic conditions.   The poor’s were not given proper housing, health and education facilities, instead the Karnataka state government allots Bangalore Development Authorities sites to politicians and VIPs under the ‘G’  category, which affects the poor go homeless.  He regretted that the state had failed to protect the people and their rights.  He also stress that manual scavenging is a violation of constitutional rights and he insisted that protecting the rights of every individual is the duty of the government.  We need more people like Fr. Jacob to ensure human rights and force the government to work for the people, he added.

Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, Honorary Director of VIM recalled the achievement of Fr. Jacob as MLA in 1983 – 85 and the subsequent consultation in VIM about Fr. Jacob in his felicitation speech.  He added that Fr. Jacob’s contribution to human rights, and socio-economic development set the examples for the youngsters to follow his path.

Fr. Jacob said in his acceptance speech that he was influenced by several leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  Fr. Jacob kept familiarizing himself with Vigil India through newsletters, periodicals and very much impressed by the work of Dr. Thomas that has led him to work for the human cause, he added.  Hence, he criticized the division of work into skilled and unskilled labour.  The skilled and unskilled discrimination is nothing but reintroduction of slavery in a different garb and it should be abolished and the labour paid in proportion to the input of effort and energy.  He also raised his concern over food security, rural poverty, right to education and right to equality and quote that our struggle should be for universal human rights. 

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