Social worker Anshu Gupta and whistleblower bureaucrat Sanjiv Chaturvedi on Wednesday won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay awards for "enterprising leadership" and for exposing corruption.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said Gupta, 45, was being recognized for "his creative vision in transforming the culture of giving in India, his enterprising leadership in treating cloth as a sustainable development resource for the poor".
The award citation also credited Gupta with "reminding the world that true giving always respects and preserves human dignity".
The foundation said Chaturvedi, 40, was being recognized for "his exemplary integrity, courage and tenacity in uncompromisingly exposing and painstakingly investigating corruption in public office, and his resolute crafting programmes and system improvements to ensure that government honourably serves the people of India".
Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia's highest honour and is widely regarded as the region's equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Chaturvedi, currently the deputy secretary at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS: "Got the award by God's grace. I did not give befitting reply to anyone, God did."
Chaturvedi, a 2002-batch Indian Forest Service officer, exposed corruption as the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of AIIMS. The union health ministry is yet to approve Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's request to appoint him an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Delhi government.
Gupta heads the NGO Goonj, which believes in reusing clothes and other material to turn into a valuable resource, to create "a parallel economy which is not cash-based but trash-based".
An elated Gupta told IANS: "I am certainly very happy to receive this award... Our work has been recognized."
Other winners announced on Wednesday are Kommaly Chanthavong of Laos, Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa of the Philippines and Kyaw Thu from Myanmar.
The Magsaysay awards celebrate the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president after whom the award is named.
It is given every year to individuals or organisations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late Filipino leader.
The five 2015 Magsaysay awardees join the community of 307 other Magsaysay laureates who have received the honour to date.