Noted music composer A R Rahman and Ramkrishna Mission Ashram Narainpur were on Sunday jointly honoured with the 25th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave away the award at a function here.
Swami Vyaptanand received the award on behalf of the Ashram. The award carries a cash prize of Rs five lakh and a citation.
The Ramkrishna Mission Ashram in Narainpur in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh was selected for the award for its work among the Pahadi Madia tribals, while Rahman was honoured for bringing together people of all ages and all lands on the uniform platform of melody, rhythm and song.
In her brief remarks on the occasion, Gandhi hailed the selfless work of the Ashram in Chhattisgarh and lauded the contribution of Rahman whose ‘Jai Ho’ “not only won him an Oscar but also held people across the world in a trance”.
The Prime Minister said Rahman’s music in films like ‘Roja’, ‘Bombay’ and ‘Lagaan’ fostered the spirit of patriotism and furthered the message of unity and respect towards the sacrifices of those who fought for the freedom of the country.
Singh made a special mention of Rahman’s rendition of ‘Vande Mataram’ in the eponymous album released in the late 1990s.
“This album inspired all Indians — Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis — alike,” he said.
Singh praised the efforts of the Ramkrishna Ashram for the betterment of tribals residing in remote regions of the country.
“The Pahadi Madia tribe is one of the most backward and poor tribes residing in jungles and mountainous regions spread across 4000 square kilometres,” Singh noted.
The Ashram manages health clinics and organises health camps in interior Abujmarh, and runs fair price food and medical shops in the district that ensure that the tribals have access to essential needs.
The Residential Tribal Youth Training Centre provides facilities for self-employment courses, and a 52-acre farm has been developed for teaching new techniques to tribal farmers.
Swami Vyaptanand recalled that the Narainpur Ashram was set up at the instance of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and inaugurated in 1985.