Keshav Desiraju Memorial Award

The Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy, ILS, Pune, is pleased to announce the ‘Keshav Desiraju Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service in Mental Health.’

About Keshav Desiraju

Keshav Desiraju (1955–2021) former Union Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India (2013–14) was a member of the Indian Administrative Service who served in multiple positions throughout his long and illustrious career in the Union government as well as the government of Uttarakhand. He was recognised for his significant contributions to various fields within the health sector in the country by drafting path-breaking legislations, establishing technical committees and strengthening governance systems. His work focused on issues of public health, primary health care, mental health & disability.  

Mr Desiraju’s contributions to the field of mental health stood out, where he was instrumental in advancing mental health in India. Recognising poverty and deprivation as predictors for poor health outcomes, he understood mental health as an issue of social justice and worked to hold the state accountable. Through building the National Mental Health Policy (2014), he emphasised mental health care as a basic right for every citizen. He was the architect” and “the driving force” behind the country’s Mental Healthcare Act of 2017, widely regarded as a bold and progressive legislation.  

Through his work to build a more just, equitable and caring country, Mr Desiraju dedicated his life to serving society, leaving behind a legacy. 

More about Keshav Desiraju

About the Award

The ‘Keshav Desiraju Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service in Mental Health’, is an annual award that aims to recognise the contribution and efforts of individuals in government service who embody similar values as Keshav Desiraju and through their work are regarded as allies in making advances in the field of mental health in India.

Every year, the award honours one individual with:

  • A memento & plaque
  • A citation by the Jury
  • A cash prize of Rs. 50,000

To commemorate the birth anniversary of Mr Desiraju, the recipient is announced on May 11, every year.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants who meet both of the following criteria will be eligible for the award:

1. Presently hold, or have held in the past, a position in the Union or State Government by appointment

Medical Officers, Programme Coordinators, Secretary or Joint-Secretaries of Ministries and Departments, Officers on Special Duty, Deputy Director for Mental Health, etc.


2. Have demonstrable work or contributions to advance the field of mental health in India

Improved mental health indicators in state or district, introduction of new schemes or programmes for persons with mental illness, initiatives to improve implementation of the MHCA, DMHP, etc.

About the Memento

The memento seeks to encapsulate the multifaceted personality of Keshav Desiraju. It depicts an organic form—unfurling and flowing, reflecting his generosity and spirit.

A memento designed in honour of Mr Keshav Desiraju by artist and
sculptor Abir Patwardhan

Jury Members

Ms K Sujatha Rao


Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
(Government of India)

Mr Amitabha Bhattacharya


Planning Commission
(Government of India)

Dr Anant Bhan


Mentor and PI, Sangath
(Bhopal Hub)

For any queries, you may write to us at:
[email protected]