22 March 2018

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09/27/2017 INDIA

Attorney Colin Gonsalves receives 'Right Livelihood' Award

The Indian lawyer brings public petitions to Supreme Court judges. In 2001 he got free meals for all schoolchildren. In 2016 he denounced the unresolved processes in the Kandhamal violence. The Award is known as the "Alternative Nobel".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Indian lawyer Colin Gonsalves, one of the most renowned human rights defenders of his generation, has been awarded the prestigious "Right Livelihood Award", known as the " Alternative Nobel ".

He was chosen as the winner of the 2017 edition for his "tireless and innovative use of public-interest disputes over 30 years to ensure fundamental human rights for the most marginalized and vulnerable citizens in India."

Speaking to AsiaNews, the lawyer says, " We are honoured to get this award. We accept this award acknowledging that it was the contribution of thousands of NGOs and social movements in the country and our work with them that has led to this recognition. It is on their behalf that we accept this award. "

The award was set up in 1980 by European writer and parliamentarian Jakob von Uexkull to "honor and support courageous individuals and organizations that offer visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems." To date, the Swedish philanthropist’s foundation has awarded 170 important personalities in 69 countries. The four awards this year - in addition to Gonsalves, include US environmental lawyer Robert Bilott, Azerbaijani reporter Khadija Ismayilova, and Ethiopian Yetnebersh Nigussie, an visual impaired lawyer - are worth three million Swedish crowns [over 312,000 euros], equally divided.

Gonsalves is an experienced Supreme Court lawyer and founder of the Human Rights Law Network (Hrln), a network of Indian lawyers dealing with public petitions. Those he represents are among the most disadvantaged sections of the Indian population: outcasts, ethnic and religious minorities, refugees, slum dwellers, women and poor.

One of its most famous causes was the "Right to Food" in 2001, with which the Supreme Court established free lunch for all schoolchildren and a grain grant for over 400 million Indians living below poverty line.

In 1996 Gonsalves defended a Catholic hostess who had been fired by the airline she worked for refusing to abort her third child. The woman, employed for over 10 years by Air India, had opposed the abortion because it is "against my Catholic faith and morals."

Last year the lawyer brought before the Supreme Court judges the case of unresolved investigations into Kandhamal's violence, whose proceedings were closed without conclusions. "We are only partly satisfied - he says - because the Supreme Court has given some compensation, but very partial."

(Nirmala Carvalho collaborated)

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