Rotary Uttarakhand Disaster Relief Trust handed over 14 newly built schools to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, on October 9 at Mohankhal, Garhwal, more popularly known as Devisain. This brings the total to 17 schools handed over to the State. Another eight are presently under construction and will be ready by the year end. In 2016, when the Trust builds another 10 schools, it would have fulfilled its promise of reconstructing 35 schools that Rotary made to the children of Uttarakhand soon after the Kedarnath natural disaster in June 2013.
The venue of the handing-over ceremony was the lush green campus of the temple dedicated to Goddess Raj Rajeshwari, 6,700 feet above sea level, and a three hour drive from Rudraprayag, the district headquarters.
Smartly dressed children in their spanking new uniforms assembled along with the teachers at their schools in this hilly terrain. It was the first time that the Chief Minister of the State had agreed to come. Rotarians, Annes and their guests stood out in the crowd with their yellow caps and aprons reminding everyone of Rotary’s contribution towards eradicating polio from India earlier, and now in rebuilding the schools in Rudraprayag.
Local MLA Shaila Rani Rawat, already well acquainted with the Rotary School rebuilding project, and who had earlier received the three schools, said, “Who would be more fortunate than me to have 35 well-built new schools in 35 villages in my constituency?” She thanked the Rotarians for their meticulous execution of the project.
Raghav Langer, District Magistrate of Rudraprayag was equally enthusiastic about Rotary’s contribution to the area. He said, “More than 500 NGOs came here soon after the 2013 calamity. Everyone left. Only Rotary continues to fulfill its promise to rebuild the area. I am amazed with their dedication to the cause.” Trivedi, headmaster of a school said, “I have worked for years in government primary schools, but none can match the quality of a Rotary school.”
Addressing the meeting, Deveshwari Devi, a member of the Zila Panchayat and resident of Kandara where Rotary has rebuilt a school said, “Another NGO was assigned to build a school in Kandara, but looking at the difficult terrain they left. Rotary came as a god and now we have a new school.”
The Chief Minister was formally received by Past RI President Rajendra K. Saboo, PRID Yash Pal Das and DG David Hilton. “I am proud that Rotary could defy the challenge of distances and difficult terrain by providing schools in such faraway places,” said Saboo. An overwhelmed Usha Saboo said, “I see these schools as temples of learning.”
Certificates of formal handing over of the schools were presented to the school management committees by the CM.
Complimenting Rotary, Rawat said, “The devastation has left behind a lot of wounds. We appreciate Rotary’s effort to minimise the pain and agony of the wreckage and provide these schools for the citizens of tomorrow.”
Responding to local request, the Chief Minister promised to build a three kilometre road, provide a veterinary centre, build an industrial training institute and also consider building a stadium at Agastyamuni.
PDG Sundararjan Gopal from District 3000, that had sponsored construction of one school said, “My visit has been most satisfying. For me it has been a pilgrimage. I feel proud to be a Rotarian.”
PRID Y P Das said these schools were built with generous contributions from KDDL, Ethos, Saboo Coatings, Bhavan’s Vidyalaya, late Rajpal Kakkar, VBL Innovations of Chandigarh; Shivdevi Prasad Goenka Foundation, Mumbai; Him Jyoti Foundation, Dehradun; Arya Dharam Seva Sangh, Kolkata, Mysore Citizens Forum, Mysuru; Asaram Charitable Trust, Shahpur, Ambala; Districts 3000, 3020, 3131; RC Panipat Midtown (3080) and RC Bombay (3140).
(The writer is Past District Governor of D 3080.)