Former Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja has declined to accept the 2022 Magsaysay Award for her handling of the Nipah and Covid-19 outbreaks in the state, PTI reported on Sunday.

Shailaja said she declined the award as she was not interested in receiving it in her individual capacity. She took the decision after consulting the party’s national leadership.

“It was not right that I receive it [Magsaysay Award] as an individual because I was considered for something which was actually part of a collective effort,” Shailaja told reporters. “So, I decided not to accept the award. I thanked them and politely refused.”

According to The New Indian Express, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation had selected Shailaja for the 64th Magsaysay Award for her commitment and service towards ensuring an accessible public health system in the state, besides her handling of the pandemic.

The Magsaysay Award, established in 1957, seeks to reward individuals for integrity in governance, courageous service to the people and pragmatic idealism in democratic societies. The awards are named after a Philippine president who had died in a plane crash that year.

On Sunday, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said that the awards are named after Magsaysay, who he alleged has a history of brutal oppression of Communists in the Philippines.

He also reiterated Shailaja’s explanation that the handling of the Nipah and Covid-19 outbreaks in Kerala was a collective effort of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government.

“So, for all these factors together, she [KK Shailaja] politely refused it,” he said.

Several Indians, including filmmaker Satyajit Ray, cartoonist RK Laxman, former election commissioner TN Sheshan, singer MS Subbulakshmi, scientist MS Swaminathan, former Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and journalist Ravish Kumar are among the past awardees.