The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is set to bestow the Global Goalkeeper Award on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday for the Centre's efforts to "improve access to sanitation in India". The award ceremony will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session.
Modi will be presented with the Global Goalkeeper Award this year, which according to the Foundation is a "special recognition" that celebrates a political leader who has "demonstrated their commitment to the Global Goals through impactful work in their country and/or globally". The prime minister is being honoured for the NDA government's flagship programme, Swachch Bharat Mission, which was launched on 2 October, 2014, in honour of Mahatma Gandhi.
The ambitious project aims to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage in the country by this year as a tribute to Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary. According to official data, so far, 90 million toilets have been built to eliminate open defecation, and currently, 98 percent of India's villages have rural sanitation coverage instead of 38 percent four years ago.
However, the decision has been met with disapproval from prominent South Asian-Americans, human rights activists, Nobel laureates, and lawyers who have urged the Foundation to withdraw the decision, citing concerns over Modi's human rights record since he came to power in 2014, CNN reported.
Reports also quoted the Foundation as saying that Hollywood actors Jameela Jamil and Riz Ahmed are among those who have pulled out of the ceremony. Both the celebrities, who are from Pakistan, are vocal about their stand against Islamophobia and racism.
The Foundation defended their decision in a statement to CNN, saying: "Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do. There is still a long way to go, but the impacts of access to sanitation in India are already being realised. The Swachh Bharat mission can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world's poorest."
What is the Global Goalkeepers Award?
The annual awards of the Bill and Melinda Foundation are divided into five categories and are presented to leaders and individuals for their efforts in achieving the universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as stipulated by the United Nations. The categories are Progress, Changemaker, Campaign, Goalkeepers Voice and the Global Goalkeeper.
"These awards tell the extraordinary stories of remarkable individuals taking action to bring the Global Goals to life and help achieve them by 2030," the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said adding that this year, Goalkeepers will focus on the challenge of fighting global inequality to ensure that no one is left behind.
In previous years, speakers at the Goalkeepers event have included former US president Barack Obama, French president Emmanuel Macron, Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Nobel Peace Prize winners like Malala Yousafzai and Nadia Murad.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Sep 24, 2019 11:40:56 IST