Giraffe Hero in Dwarka

The nonprofit `Giraffe Heroes Project` took shape in the head and heart of Ann Medlock, a freelance editor, publicist, speech writer and writer living in Manhattan-USA. Ann started the `Project`, in 1984, as an antidote to the mind-numbing violence and trivia that pervaded the media, eroding civic energy and hope. People needed to know about the heroes of our times and all that they were accomplishing as courageous, compassionate citizens.

Two of the giraffes, recently got Nobel Prizes-one in 2002 & other in 2006. So far,only seven from India, have been commended as giraffe heroes.

`In 1969, a new graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology joined the New Delhi Municipal Council. As an Assistant Engineer, young Vijay Saluja’s goal was to help responsibly develop the capitol city. He thought his job would be to design and maintain municipal projects; to correct traffic problems and fix pot-holed roads; to clean-up garbage, pollution and overflowing sewage as he worked on planning, design, construction and maintenance of vital municipal projects.

He hoped to improve overall living conditions for the people of New Delhi, which many residents described as “a nightmare.” It wasn’t long before Saluja found his goal was not shared by his superiors. He was appalled by the corruption he saw within the New Delhi Municipal Council, India’s richest civic body. He found money misspent on faulty public buildings, and more money squandered on incompetent road repairs.

Charged with reducing the city’s urban troubles, the Council instead fostered practices that led to huge time and cost overruns on projects, often resulting in huge arbitration awards. Hundreds of corruption cases were pending against officers in the organization.

Saluja began fighting against the system; his crusade continues to this day. He started by writing letters to his supervisors asking that quality control measures be enforced so that public taxes actually served the public good. He appealed to the Lieutenant Governor Delhi, to the Home Ministry and the Prime Ministers of the country. Nothing changed.

Instead, Vijay Saluja became a target of harassment. False complaints, departmental inquiries, transfers, and suspensions faced him at work. At home, he got a death threat from a contractor that Saluja had refused to pay for sub-standard and defective work on a Council contract.
For nearly 10 years he was denied promotions and benefits. He suffered financial strain, mental and physical stress. But in the end, friends say every action taken against him merely strengthened his resolve to end the corruption. In 1993, Saluja filed a civil petition in Delhi High Court citing his superiors’ abuses of power, including massive squandering of public funds, and the damages to Saluja’s career. Stall tactics by the Municipal Council’s lawyer dragged the case on till March of 2001, when the court awarded Saluja ,punitive damages. Thanks to still more stalling from the Council, the court’s orders were ignored until 2004, when Saluja finally got back promotions as Chief Engineer[civil] of the New Delhi Municipal Council[NDMC].

`He[non-lawyer] argued the case himself in the Delhi high Court against top private [lawyers of the country fielded at state expense, by NDMC & FINALLY WON THE CASE..It is a long story, in itself!`

Despite hostile work environment and obstacles at every turn, Vijay Saluja has managed to oversee many exemplary roads, buildings and redevelopment works. He is respected worldwide for his work on urban management, municipal engineering, urban poverty and the environment. His countrymen acknowledged his work with the ‘Red & White Bravery Award’ in 2002, recognizing his exceptional acts of social courage.
Mr Saluja superannuated as Chief Engineer[civil] of NDMC, in 2004.
He says `Callous wastage of public funds, when abject poverty abounds, literally appalls me`

In addition to `Red & White Bravery Awards in 2002,for fighting corruption & Giraffe Heroes Award in 2004, he was one of the five nominee for Delhi Citizen One Award in 2004, instituted by `TODAY`,afternoon news paper of India Today Group. IIT Delhi Alumni Association, also honoured him in 2004, for getting the prestigious Giraffe Award.

In February,2009,he was given the prestigious Satyendra K. Dubey Award by IIT Kanpur, for professional integrity, professing human values & fighting corruption.

Presently, he is a Senior Fellow in Urban Studies Division, in the Institute of Social Sciences-New Delhi, India [www.issin.org] . He also writes for newspapers/journals, on local governance, basic services, infrastructure , values & ethics & other related urban issues.

He is Ex President IIT Delhi Alumni Association, Founder Vice President, Association of British Scholars-Delhi Chapter & CONVENOR University of Birmingham Alumni Association-India Chapter, beside, being actively involved in many professional & social organizations.

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