From the Editor’s Desk – December 2014

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Rasheeda Bhagat

Water in Rajasthan, bullets in Pakistan

The heart warming response to the change in editorial leadership in Rotary News, and more important, wholehearted and generous appreciation for the editorial team’s efforts to improve and widen the content and coverage of the magazine, strengthens my team’s resolve to make the magazine more interesting and relevant. Rotarians from across the region have written in to say they were amazed to note the work done by fellow Rotarians in building schools for underprivileged children in Garhwal, and reaching water to farmers in villages near Pune. We will continue to bring you such notable projects from across the region we cover. However small your town, if your work is changing lives, Rotary News will find space for it. So put on your best marketing cap and tell us about your projects!

Beginning this issue, we’ll be carrying a series of signed articles from prominent citizens on Rotary’s core values of Service, Fellowship, Diversity, Integrity and Leadership. The first article from former CBI Director R K Raghavan describes the role of the CBI, why it was set up, the slide in public perception of our premier investigative agency and the safeguards needed to redeem its image. We need to begin with a CBI Chief “who is competent, honest and fearless, and expects no favours from the Executive.”

As the recently devastated Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls, surely Rotarians who cherish another core Rotary interest — that of conflict resolution and peace — are hoping and praying that peace, stability, development and prosperity come to stay in this region.

 

Rajasthan check dams

But topmost in my mind is the impact of the commendable work done by the Rotary India Water Conservation Trust to change the lives and livelihoods of farmers in the villages of Rajasthan, in mainly Sikar and Alwar districts. Spearheaded by TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta, and executed on the ground by a team of dedicated Rotarians, this project has completed 55 check dams at a cost of over Rs 5 crore. The result is greening of a semi-desert region with vast stretches of barren land which earlier gave the farmers such negligible income that their sons were forced to migrate to big cities to do menial jobs in the construction industry. But now, thanks to the Rotary check dams providing sufficient water for their fields, the farmers are able to harvest three annual crops including a profitable cash crop, instead of just one. While an old woman harvested fish worth Rs 1 lakh from one dam, another farmer was able to sell bhindi at Rs 58 a kg! Two images of this transformation stand out. Malliram’s five sons have returned to work on their land, and recently he bought a tractor worth Rs 5 lakh. Another young farmer, Banwari (33), has chosen to limit his family to one child as he wants to give him the best education. He himself has already picked up two M A degrees and is now eyeing a Ph D in social work!

But as we go to press, there is tragic news as well of the shocking and brutal murder of Salma Farooqi, the 30-year-old health worker and mother of five, who was abducted from her home in Peshawar in Pakistan, brutally tortured and then killed. Barely a day later a van carrying polio workers in Quetta district was attacked by gunmen who used automatic weapons and four health workers, including three women, were killed and three others injured. The team was going for emergency vaccination campaign being carried out in 18 union councils of Quetta district. The tragic fallout was an announcement of suspension of the emergency immunisation campaign. The local papers reported that since the “polio team had no security escort, the assailants managed to escape.”

What greater tragedy can there be than humanitarian work requiring security?

 

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Rasheeda Bhagat

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