Dr Rajagopal received this award in recognition of more than 20 years spent fighting conditions that cause patients to suffer severe pain unnecessarily. During this time he contributed to the development of India’s National Program in Palliative Care (NPPC) in 2012 and to the Amendment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of India in 2014.
He said about receiving this high honour: “I thank Human Rights Watch for this great recognition and for giving visibility to the notion that denial of access to pain relief and palliative care is a violation of human rights, especially when simple inexpensive solutions are possible and feasible. We cannot call ourselves a cultured society if our callousness, ignorance and bureaucratic tangles inflict excruciating suffering on our fellow human beings. This award will help to bring public attention to the injustice that is being meted out to our fellow citizens and to the solutions that are being worked out and demonstrated in many parts of the developing world.”
The award is named for Dr Alison Des Forges, senior adviser at Human Rights Watch for almost two decades, who died in a plane crash in New York State on February 12, 2009. Des Forges was the world’s leading expert on Rwanda, the 1994 genocide, and its aftermath. The Human Rights Watch annual award honours her outstanding commitment to, and defence of, human rights. It celebrates the valour of people who put their lives on the line to create a world free from abuse, discrimination, and oppression.
“The Alison Des Forges Award honors people of extraordinary compassion and courage who work on behalf of some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The award winners have spoken out and intervened in the face of opposition, indifference, and at times life-threatening danger.”