Two Indians have been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award — the Asian version of the Nobel Prize — along with four others, for excellence in their respective fields this year. 

While Bharat Vatwani was honoured for leading the rescue of thousands of mentally-ill street paupers, treating them and reuniting them with their families, Sonam Wangchuk bagged the prestigious award for his contribution in harnessing culture, education and nature for community progress. 

Bharat Vatwani

Vatwani and his wife established Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation in 1988 in a bid to help mentally-ill people living on the streets, and worked relentlessly to rescue and treat them. The couple also provided free food and shelter and helped in reuniting the homeless with their families. 

Vatwani received assistance from social workers, referrals and even police for this noble deed.

Sonam Wangchuk

Educationist, innovator and reformist, Wangchuk established the Students’ Education and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) in 1988 with an aim to reform the education system of Ladakh.

Wangchuk started teaching students, the majority of whom used to fail government examinations. 

The educationist also led 'Operation New Hope' (ONH) in 1994. The programme has trained 700 teachers, 1,000 VEC leaders and increased the success rate of students in matriculation examinations dramatically.

Wangchuk is popularly known as the real life Phunsukh Wangdu from the movie 3 Idiots, that starred Aamir Khan.

This year, the award has also been given to Cambodian genocide survivor Youk Chang, Instituto Seculare Maun Alin Iha Kristu founder, Maria de Lourdes Martins Cruz from East Timor, former Philippine ambassador and government peace negotiator Howard Dee and Vo Thi Hoang Yen from Vietnam for providing livelihood, skill-training, and job placement to people with disabilities. 

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, which was established in 1957 to commemorate late president of Philippines Ramon Magsaysay, is given to celebrate greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia.