IIT-Mumbai Honours ISKCON Devotee
Posted March 17, 2010
The Mumbai branch of the Indian Institute of Technology has bestowed a 2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award on Madhu Pandit das, the founder-chair of the Akshaya Patra Foundation and president of ISKCON Bangalore, citing his ìcontribution to humanitarian service and organic farming. On accepting his award, Madhu Pandit das described it as the blessings of Lord Krishna and the blessings of the children fed by Akshaya Patra.
Each year on its foundation day, the IIT recognizes five alumni with the institute’s highest award; this year’s other award winners are Johns Hopkins University Prof. Nitish Thakor; R. Chandrashekhar, with the government of India IT department; Mckinsey India manager Adil Zainulbhai; and Colin Gonsalves, founder of the India Centre for Human Rights and Law.
Born as Madhusudan Sivasankar, Madhu Pandit prabhu completed a civil engineering degree from IIT-Mumbai (1981). Shortly thereafter, he dedicated his life to serving the mission of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. For nearly three decades he has demonstrated ability within the non-profit sector, having been instrumental in social initiatives to change the lives of millions of people, whilst utilizing technology medium to re-energize interest in the culture of India. He designed and built the popular ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna temple in Bangalore, inaugurated in 1997 by the then President of India. Madhu Pandit attributed the temple’s successful completion to his aplication of IIT training “on a foundation of spiritual maturity for a selfless cause.”
Inspired by Srila Prabhupada’s motto of “simple living and high thinking,” Madhu Pandit prabhu envisioned an eco-friendly and sustainable organic farm. His initiatives led to creating the Hare Krishna Nature Farm in Mysore. This concept of aiding rural development through sustainable agriculture was conceived long before the organized sector realized its potential. The nature farm became a model farm and a case study in sustainable and organic farming in Karnataka, specific to the farmers of dry lands. Thousands of farmers all over India have benefited from this project.
With farmers comprising over 55 percent of India’s population, the nature farm has a goal of making a difference to farmers’ lives. It is founded on the understanding that the diverse culture of farming rests with the rural population and any drain of rural population to the urban settlement results in the extinction of the delicate and diverse cultural fabric of the nation.
Madhu Pandit das then set about supporting education through a mid-day meal scheme. Thus was born the Akshaya Patra program, initially feeding 1,500 underprivileged children in 2000. In less than ten years the Akshaya Patra Foundation has become a leading technology-intensive social sector initiative — a strategic intervention in the education of children that provides free, nutritious meals every day, now reaching over a million school children in 18 locations in eight states in the country.
The intricate efficiency of the program attracted Harvard Business School to make a case study of Akshaya Patra, which received a CNBC India Business Leader Award for corporate governance in 2008 and a Financial Reporting Award from India’s Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (2009). Akshaya Patra has also earned a Tech Awards Laureate (2009) as one of 15 global innovators who has appyied technology to benefit humanity and spark global change. Madhu Pandit’s goal is to scale up the program by 2020 to feed five million underprivileged children in India.
Madhu Pandit das also envisions a showcase of Indian heritage through 3D animation and theme yarks based on Mahabharata and Ramayana stories. The India Heritage Foundation’s first project was ‘Little Krishna’, a 3D serial depicting childhood pastimes of Krishna, which has several national and international awards to its credit.
Currently Madhu Pandit das is planning an Indian heritage and cultural tourism development. The ‘Krishna Lila Park’ will be built with an integrated spiritual township in Bangalore on 75 acres (30 ha) in Bangalore city at an estimated cost of over Rs. 750 crores (120 million euros, or $165 million US). This is the first attempt to import to India Disneylanf technology to create attractions centred around themes of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, etc. The unique funding strategy of realty cross-subsidizing a non-profit organization’s heritage and cultural tourism project on a grand scale by a is a combination of concepts brought together by Madhu Pandit das.