for ISKCON News on Nov. 25, 2011
ISKCON Food Relief Foundation’s Midday Meal program—which feeds over one million meals of sanctified, nutritious vegetarian food every day to underprivileged children in ten Indian states—was named the “Best Organization in Social Work” at the D.Y. Patil Annual Achiever’s Awards on Sunday November 13th.
This year’s inaugural awards were the first in what is expected to be an annual event from now on, backed by the prestigious D.Y. Patil Group of educational and medical institutes, and the Bhamla Foundation, which works with disabled and underprivileged children.
The Awards are an attempt to recognize, reward and honour individuals with leadership qualities who have shown exceptional talent in various categories, from education, to business, to bravery.
Attending on behalf of the ISKCON Midday Meal program were its inspirational leader Radhanath Swami, and national director Radha Krishna Dasa. Radha Krishna’s wife Palika Dasi and ISKCON Food Relief Foundation trustee Sri Nathji Dasa joined them at the event, held at the aristocratic Taj Hotel in Land’s End, Mumbai.
Running from 7pm to 10pm on Sunday evening, the Awards were a rather star-studded affair, with many VIPs amongst the two thousand invite-only guests.
Attendees included India’s Union Minister of Power Shri Sushilkumar Shinde, President of the Maharastra Pradesh Congress Committee Kripashankar Singh, Orissan governor Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, Bollywood actor Salman Khan and actress Deepika Padukone, Indian cricket team bowler Zaheer Khan, and former Bombay High Court Chief Justice C.S Dharmadhikari.
Also in attendance were D.Y. Patil’s son, educationist Dr Ajeenkya Patil, and Asif Bhamla, president of the Bhamla Foundation and senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party.
The Gala entertainment evening began with a traditional dance invocation of Lord Ganesh by Kathak dancer Sandeep Mahavir.
Various other top entertainment acts were interspersed throughout the evening, presented by television personalities Mandira Bedi and Shekhar Suman.
The Tripura Troupe, from the state of Tripura in Northeast India—where D.Y. Patil is governor—brought the rustic feel of the countryside to life with their energetic folk dance, leaving the audience spellbound. Likewise a dance by actress Eesha Koppikhar depicting the greatest women of Vedic culture, such as Srimati Radharani, Sita Devi, and Parvati Devi.
Meanwhile playback singer Shaan wowed everyone with his majestic voice and charismatic performance, while actor Salman Khan ascended the stage to join a performance by underprivileged children helped by his Being Human Foundation.
Between these entertainment acts, awards were presented to individuals and organizations excelling in various categories such as entertainment, education, business, sports, bravery, and social work.
Winners were announced after a careful selection procedure by a jury panel of experts including Vice Chancelor of the University of Mumbai Dr. Vijay Khole, cardiologist and medical educationist Dr B. K. Goyal, President of the Times of India group Pradeep Guha, Yoga and Pilates instructor Yasmin Karachiwala, photographer Atul Kasbekar, director Ashutosh Gowarikar, and others.
Winners included Zaheer Khan and Tejaswini Sawant for Sportspersons of the Year; Mumbai’s Additional Comissioner of Police CP Vishwas Nagre Patil for Bravery; and Rayat Sikshan Sanstha for Best Organization in Education; while film director Yash Chopra received a lifetime achievement award.
“It has been our privilege to be able to felicitate and pay tribute to individuals who have done India proud and contributed towards the nation’s development,” commented Dr Ajeenkya Patil, “Thus steering the country on to the path of global appreciation.”
Asif Bhamla added, “The main aim of the D.Y. Patil Annual Achiever’s Awards for us was to be able to identify and honour people who have the spirit to excel and follow their goal with single-minded passion.”
Two of those people, of course, were Radhanath Swami and Radha Krishna Dasa, whose ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF) program is part of the Government of India’s Midday Meal Scheme, which aims to give poor children from slum and tribal areas better nutrition, improve their school attendance, and reduce the drop-out rate.
Radhanath Swami and Radha Krishna Dasa ascended the stage to receive the award on behalf of IFRF at 8:30pm, right in the middle of the evening, when the maximum number of people were present.
Accepting the award from Congress Committee President Kripashankar Singh and cricket bowler Zaheer Khan, Radha Krishna thanked the Bhamla Foundation and D.Y. Patil group for presenting IFRF with this prestigious award in the category of Best Organization in Social Work.
“I gave a brief introduction about the activities of IFRF,” Radha Krishna recalls, “And explained that we now serve 270,000 meals in Maharastra to underprivileged schoolchildren every day. I concluded by telling the crowd, ‘This is all inspired by and executed under the vision and guidance of His Holiness Radhanath Swami,’ then handed the microphone to Maharaja.”
After chanting the mangalacharan prayers, Radhanath Swami in turn gave all the credit to his spiritual master. “My guru, Srila Prabhupada, had seen underprivileged children fighting for food that they had picked up from the garbage bin,” he recalled. “It was his vision to feed them which ISKCON Food Relief Foundation is fulfilling today.”
He also spoke in depth about love and compassion, saying that “The human heart should be full of compassion and love for others.”
“Accolades like this Achiever’s Award, and the Child Health Award we received in 2009, from prestigious organizations such as the D.Y. Patil Group and Hindustan UniLever, are a sign that society is recognizing our efforts,” Radha Krishna says. “Media spreads the news, and awareness of the project increases, creating more opportunities for us to expand it. What’s more, those who are already working with us and supporting the project feel encouraged by such recognition.”
The ISKCON Food Relief Foundation’s Midday Meal project continues to grow from strength to strength. In July this year, it opened a brand new state-of-the-art kitchen in the state of Jharkhand, sponsored by the TATA Steel company. The kitchen currently feeds 65,000 children and will expand to cater to 100,000.
In January 2012, IFRF will open another new kitchen in Aurangabad, which will begin by feeding 30,000 children and escalate to 80,000 within six months. And soon after that, they’ll open a third facility in Panipat, Haryana, with the support of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC).
“That will be a total of twenty-seven kitchens throughout the country,” says Radha Krishna Dasa.
For more information about the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation and its work, please visit
The full list of winners of the first D.Y. Patil Annual Achiever’s Awards are: Best Organization in Social Work – ISKCON Food Relief Foundation; Best Individual in Social Work – Prakash Amte; Entertainer of the Year – Deepika Padukone; Best Organization in Education – Rayat Sikshan Sanstha; Best Individual Working for Education – Prof. Malshekar; Best Budding Talent – Yuvraj Valmiki; Bravery Award - Adl. CP Vishwas Nagre Patil; Businessman of the Year – Mr. Anirudh Dhoot; Corporate Person of the Year – Mr. D.K. Mehrotra; Visionary of India – Anil Kakodkar; Sportsperson of the Year, Male – Zaheer Khan; Sportsperson of the Year, Female – Tejaswini Sawant; Lifetime Achievement Award – Yash Chopra.