May 23, 2003
Bunker Roy wins the St Andrews’s Prize
St Andrew’s is Britain’s largest prize for environment. In its fifth year, the $30,000 prize has been given to Bunker Roy for his work with ‘barefoot technicians’.
Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy is a product of Doon School and St.Stephen’s College, Delhi. He quit his job with Grindlays Bank over three decades ago and has ever since been at work educating, empowering rural people. In 1972 he founded the Barefoot College in Tilonia, in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. He focuses on imparting employment generating, modern skills to illiterates and school drop outs. He has proved how adept India’s masses are with emerging technologies. Most notably, his barefoot women technicians go around intalling and maintaining solar electric systems in rural areas.
Along the way, Roy also initiated the then unknown practice of presenting the audited books of account to the public. From this grew his wife Aruna Roy’s agitational work demanding transparency from the Government. Last year, the Indian Parliament passed the Freedom of Information Bill. Aruna Roy has since won the Ramon Magsaysay Award.
Bunker and his work are not new to prizes either. They have won among others the Swiss Schwab Foundation Award, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture , the German Nuclear Free Future Award—and now the St Andrew’s Prize.
Barefoot College believes that to serve the needs of India’s masses, it is not necessary to be ‘educated’ to be an appropriate doctor, engineer, architect, teacher or IT specialist. The College has produced hundred of competent people for these needs. The current prize is in fact to do with the creation of an army of solar lighting engineers for remote Ladakh. To give but one aspect of the impact of this approach, an estimated 100,000 litres per year of diesel now need not be ferried across mountain roads.The environmental impact can be imagined.
Roy has declared that the prize money will go create the first Barefoot College for Women.