The West Bengal government is among the winners to receive the prestigious UN Public Service Award on Saturday for its initiative to combat child marriage and ensure education to the girl child in the state.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee received the 2017 UN Public Service Award at a ceremony held in The Hague, Netherlands on behalf of her government for the ‘Kanyashree Prakalpa’ initiative that sought to reduce the high child marriage rates and low female education rates in the state.
Through the initiative, cash was deposited into the bank account of girls for every year they remained in school and were unmarried.
Citing the impact the initiative had, the UN said it led to a “drastic reduction in child marriage, increase in female education and female empowerment.”
The UN Public Service Awards are given by the world body to institutions from across the world for their innovation and excellence in providing public services. It highlights the pivotal role of public services in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The West Bengal government was among the 12 institutions from 11 countries that were recognised by the world body on UN Public Service Day, commemorated on Saturday.
Speaking at the ceremony, Banerjee said “public service is service for all; it means continuous monitoring and regular service for the people.”
“We are delighted on behalf of our countrymen and the people of #Bengal to receive the first prize on @UN Public Service Day,” Banerjee wrote on her Twitter handle soon after receiving the award.
“Receiving the first prize from @UN for #Kanyashree is a huge honour and recognition,” she said.
She emphasised that her government is focused on empowering the girl child from all sections of society. She also outlined measures taken by her government to ensure basic amenities, healthcare, food support and education to people in her state.
“Sometimes the speech is silence but the action and implementation is golden. The benefits should reach to the poor people, we work for the grassroots people. What is needed is that the leader must lead the people,” Banerjee said.
“I think public service is service for all and public means people - government of the people, by the people, for the people. I come from West Bengal in India, home to 100 million people. But, public service also means continuous monitoring and providing regular service for the people,” she said.
Banerjee said “You will be happy to know that our state’s 100 million people, we give direct benefits to 90 per cent, and the people are so happy.”
“I have attended more than 300 administrative review meetings where we meet all the public representatives including block-level officials. Because of the accountability, transparency and sustainable developmental work, we achieve 100 per cent of our goals,” she said.
“There should be commitment, dedication and determination. If you have a dream, you have to achieve it. What is needed is for the leader to lead the people. We lead the people,” the chief minister added.
The UN Public Service Day is celebrated every year to recognise public service innovations and excellence that have led to more effective and inclusive public service delivery contributing to the achievement of the SDGs in countries worldwide.
India is among the first place winners of the public service awards along with Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mongolia and the UK. The second place winners are projects from Botswana, Colombia, France, Thailand.
The winner from Argentina is an initiative that provided quality early childhood education to neighbourhoods in extreme needs.
An initiative in Australia was recognised that promotes transparency and inclusiveness in use of public fund and resources while in Thailand, a project was recognised for providing quality care to elders.
In Botswana, the effective waste management system has been implemented to improve communities.
Other award winners include projects to provide inclusive access to quality health care in Ecuador and productive water management system in France.
“We need to mobilise the best expertise of public servants to transform institutions and put people at the centre of public service. We need to mobilise their creativity and empower them to take risks and try new ways of doing things. In brief, we need innovation so that no one is left behind,” said Thomas Gass, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs.