Manila / Kuala Lumpur / Mumbai: India’s philanthropist doctor couple Prakash and Mandakini Amte are among the winners of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for their contributions to improving the lives of tribals in a remote Maharashtra village through medical care and education, the award foundation announced on Thursday.

Prakash, the son of noted social activist Baba Amte, and his wife Mandakini are among the seven individuals from different nations who have been selected for this year’s Magsaysay award, regarded as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

The couple has been selected for the community leadership award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said in Manila. They are being recognized for “enhancing the capacity of the Madia Gonds to adapt positively in today’s India, through healing and teaching and other compassionate interventions", it said.

Prakash said he was humbled by the recognition. “I accept the award on behalf of my entire team dedicated to the cause of social welfare and upliftment," he said by phone from his Hemalkasa home in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region.

For a cause: A file photo of Prakash Amte examining a patient. Amte and his wife won the award for their work with the Madia Gond tribals. ( Praful Gangurde / HT)

Prakash’s father Baba Amte, who died in February at 94, had received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service in 1985. “Baba would have been happy if I got the award in his lifetime," Prakash said.

Expressing his views on a third generation of Amtes having taken up social service, Prakash said he was satisfied. “My children, Dighant and Aniket, are taking forward the work started by us. Our elder daughter-in-law is also a doctor. Even Baba was satisfied that his grandchildren are carrying forward his legacy."

The awards also honoured Ahmad Syafii Maarif, the head of Indonesia’s powerful Muhammadiyah group, Thai prosthetic limb manufacturer Therdchai Jivacate and Sri Lankan social worker Ananda Galappatti.

Grace Padaca, governor of the Philippine province of Isabela, received the award for government service. Crippled by childhood polio, she defeated a powerful political dynasty in the 2004 elections and was re-elected last year.

Akio Ishii received the award for journalism, literature and creative communication arts, the foundation said. Ishii is the head of publishing house Akashi Shoten, which has around 2,800 books in print that place discrimination, human rights and other difficult subjects in Japan’s public domain, the foundation said.

The award for public service was given to the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development-Mutually Reinforcing Institutions, of the Philippines.

The awards, named for a popular Philippine president killed in a plane crash, were set up in 1957 by the trustees of the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund. More than 250 people and 17 groups, including the US Peace Corps and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have been recognized by the foundation since the first awards in 1958.