Often called “the Gandhi of Sicily”, 65 – years old Mr. Dolci is one of the most renowned social activists in the world. With a promising future in architecture ahead of him in Northern Italy, he chose to get involved, in his own words, in “work more essential than urban planning or builing design for the rich”, and proceeded to Trappeto, in Werstern Sicily, an extremely poor town of peasants and fishermen. It was also the heart of Mafia activity. Dolci was struck first by Sicily’s poverty and decided to dedicate his life for its eradication. He worked with the peasants and firshermen, and, indeed, lived their situation.
Although a man of compassion, Dolci refused to sed up institutions of charity. Rather, he would arouse the people to ask themselves questions about their condition. This was thr method of grass-roots conscience-raising. He also provided leadership to the hapless community and adoped techiques of social action unheard of in Western tradition.
He fasted, courted imprisonment, organised strikes, including “the strike in reverse” – which was a novel method in which the unemployed and the under-employed did public works without governmental permission to organise demonstratio forb jobs. Besides, he also resorted to sit-ins, protest marches, and underground radio broadcasts.
But the conflicts and struggles Dolci organised had a positive aim. He took up issues like construction of dams, organisation of people’s cooperatives, Goverment policy on starvation, rehabilitation of the unemployed, disease and illeteracy-causes basic to people’s day-to-day life. He fought the Mafia menace and its connections with bureaucrats and policitians by leading from the the front. Even Gandhiji would have admired Dolci’s non violence which was the non-violence of the brave.
A most interesting aspect of Dolci’s endeavours has been the emphasis on integrating community development with education. Through his Centre of Study and Initiative, Dolci has given a thrust to the educational system of Italy, while aiming at its revolutionary transformation based on indigenous philosophy of education.
By conferring on Mr. Danilo Dolci the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India, the Trustees of the Foundation feel happy in recognising his innovative radicalisation of non-violent social action and his developmental work from the grass-roots level.
( M. Hidayatullah) ( C. Subramaniam) (Ramkrishna Bajaj)
Chairman Chairman Chairman
Council of Advisers for the Award Board of Trustees
Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation Selection Committee Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.