Padma Awards, one of the highest civilian awards of the country, are conferred in three categories – Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. The awards are given in various disciplines / fields of activities, viz., art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc. Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; Padma Bhushan for distinguished service of high order and Padma Shri for distinguished service in any field. The awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day every year.
These awards are conferred by the President of India at ceremonial functions which are held at Rashtrapati Bhawan usually around March / April every year. This year the President of India has approved conferment of Padma Awards on 112 persons as per the list given below. The list comprises of 10 Padma Vibhushan, 19 Padma Bhushan and 83 Padma Shri awardees. 19 of the awardees are women and the list also includes 10 persons from the category of foreigners, NRIs and PIOs (includes one posthumous) and 4 posthumous awardees.
Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman of The Akshaya Patra Foundation and President of ISKCON Bangalore has been awarded the Padma Shri. The award has been conferred in recognition of the distinguished service rendered by Akshaya Patra for the children of India. Akshaya Patra Foundation is providing mid-day meals to more than 15 lakh children every day in 10 states across the nation.
Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa designed the first centralized kitchen of Akshaya Patra, to provide mid-day meals to underprivileged children in the Government schools of Bengaluru Rural District in the year 2000. He is a visionary and under his inspiring leadership and impeccable commitment, the organization is growing from strength to strength, moving towards its vision of feeding five million children by 2020.
Thanking the government for this recognition, Madhu Pandit Dasa said, “I dedicate this award to Srila Prabhupada, a true visionary who wanted to see a hunger-free world. This award will give immense encouragement to the Akshaya Patra team to reach greater heights in its service.”
Madhu Pandit Dasa completed his B.Tech. in Civil Engineering from IIT-Mumbai in the year 1980. While he was doing his M.Tech. course in IIT-Mumbai in 1981, he dedicated himself to the service of humanity by becoming a full-time member of ISKCON. He was greatly inspired by the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of ISKCON.
Srila Prabhupada desired that no one should go hungry in this country. Inspired by this instruction of Srila Prabhupada, Madhu Pandit Dasa has seen the program grow from providing 1500 children with mid-day meals to 1.5 million children in 15 years, thus becoming the world’s largest NGO-run school lunch programme.
Madhu Pandit Dasa set up a robust Governance Model which has made Akshaya Patra a hallmark of transparency and accountability. This is highlighted by the fact that Akshaya Patra is the only NGO in the country to win the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) Gold Shield Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting five times in a row and placed in its prestigious Hall of Fame.
Madhu Pandit Dasa further added, “It is an inspiration for me and the entire team at Akshaya Patra to reach out to many more hungry children of this country. Quality food for these children is a need for quality education that will in turn create citizens of great character. Our children are the real asset of our nation.”
Akshaya Patra works with the Government of India and the State Governments and is one of the most admired Public Private Partnerships in the sphere of education and child welfare. Several scientific studies conducted by various leading research organizations such as A. C Nielson and Sigma clearly establish the positive impact of Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme. Classroom hunger was addressed significantly, with attendance, enrolment and retention receiving a boost. The recommended nutritional requirements were being fulfilled and the food was found to be healthy, hygienic and tasty.
This award is a recognition of the humble service by the Akshaya Patra Foundation in leading the cause of education among the government school children.