"Whatever happened in Assam is a matter of great sorrow and concern. Swift action should be taken against those responsible for the incident, whoever they are," Gandhi said addressing a ceremony to confer the 20th Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhawana Award here.
Gandhi said all sections of society should condemn what happened in some states against the people of northeast after the ethnic clashes in Assam. "The central and the state governments should take stern action against those who are spoiling the harmony," she said noting that maintaining social amity was one of the biggest challenges before the country in the present circumstances.
The Congress President stressed that the people of the country living anywhere have all the right to inhabit and work in any part of the country. She said that the biggest challenge before the country since Independence has come from elements, who are enemies of social harmony and unity and only those are true patriots who fought such elements and promoted social solidarity.
Giving the award to DR Mehta, the founder and chief patron of Jaipur based Bhagwan Mahavir Vikalang Sahayata Samiti, Gandhi said Rajiv Gandhi always fought against social and communal tensions and hatred. "Social harmony was not an issue but the basic value for him," she said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Rajiv Gandhi knew very well that India can progress only when all the countrymen can live together with peace, tolerance and harmony. Singh chose the occasion to highlight the role of social organisations in strengthening democracy.
"I have always been of this belief that social organisations in participation with Government can make a major contribution in strengthening the roots of democracy and spreading brotherhood in the country. In a country as huge and diverse like India, there is a need for the government and non-government organizations to work together to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the people," the Prime Minister said.
He lauded the efforts of Mehta's organisation which has donated artificial limbs to the poor and physically handicapped in 26 countries of Asia, Africa and South America besides changing the lives of many within the country.
Gandhi also lauded the "selfless" efforts of Mehta saying he was doing something, which joins people not only on surface level but brings hearts together.
A recipient of Padma Bhushan, Mehta was given the Tech Museum Award in the Silicon Valley in the USA for innovation and its use in humanity. He is also a recipient of Diwali Behan award by his holiness Dalai Lama and many other awards.
The Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhawana Puraskar, which has earlier been given to stalwarts like Mother Teresa, Lata Mangeshkar, Bismillah Khan and Dilip Kumar, carries a citation and a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh.
Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Mukul Wasnik read out the citation recognising Mehta's "unique contribution to the welfare of the poor and physically challenged and exemplifying spirit of self-less public service..".
Chairman of the Committee Karan Singh recalled late Rajiv Gandhi's contributions to bring peace in the country through various accords.
In his speech, Mehta urged the government to consider taking up a large programme in a phased manner for setting up of the permanent centres of Jaipur Foot Technology, to begin with in the SAARC countries and in some war torn countries of Africa.