In some of these places, a district conference is arranged as though there is a marriage or similar important event in the District Governor’s family,” a senior Rotarian tells me when I comment on the festive atmosphere at the D 3060 Conference organised at the sprawling Tent City in the iconic Rann of Kutch, bang in the midst of the Rann Utsav. Everything is done in style … from the camel ride RI Director Manoj Desai and RIPR Ricardo Acosta Roderiguez take to arrive at the inaugural session, to the Kutch delicacies on offer at the various meals.
The team put together by DG Parag Sheth had enough and more on its hands as over 2,400 registrations were received, necessitating the organisation of two back-to-back conferences, perhaps for the first time in the Rotary world.
Addressing the meet, Desai regaled the audience with anecdotes. But, he said that as this was his District (he is a Charter member of RC Baroda Metro, which is a part of D 3060) he felt a “little sad” that he needed a video introduction. But then, earlier in the day, somebody had asked him if he was a Rotarian. “And before I could reply, another person said: ‘Don’t you know him, he is bahu jhuna (very old) member of Agambhai’s club.’ So I suppose I do needed an intro here!”
Speaking on the future of Rotary, he unfolded for the delegates his “Vision 20:20”— clear vision in the days to come. He challenged the delegates to spell out for him the vision statement of Rotary, which was doing such splendid work all over the world. “But when the changes in the outside world are faster than inside an organisation, then you are facing the danger of extinction.” These were days when smart phone models changed every 3–6 months, and yet the Council on Legislation of RI met only once in three years.
The world had fascinating examples of vision … the pyramids which lasted 5,000 years and the Taj Mahal which was built 500 years ago. These structures are irreplaceable because those men had a vision. While Paul Harris had a vision for Rotary which was ‘Service above Self,’ Mahatma Gandhi coined the song which goes “Vaishnav jan toh teney kahiye, Je Peed parayi jaane re” (Godly people are only those who understand other people’s sorrow); both these visions were strikingly similar.
Summing up Rotary’s ‘persona’ in three words, Desai said, “These are Dare, Care and Share… Dare to do the impossible, Care for the underserved and share what you have.” He said that while many other Rotary Districts had shown a zigzag graph in performance when it came to the core areas of Rotary, “our District’s graph has only gone up. I have visited 17 Rotary Districts so far this year, and I can tell you that ours is the most peaceful district; nothing can shake us when it comes to the focus on projects, TRF and membership. Year after year we are only improving.”
But when it came to overall membership, he was sorry to tell them that last year while “our Zone had added 15,000 members, this year till now it had lost 11,700 of them.” Also, this year the growth was only 3,000. “This is the number game I don’t want to play; that is not what Rotary is all about,” Desai added.
Recently at the Jaipur Institute, he had introduced electronic voting and the participants had appreciated two values above all — integrity and service. This meant the priorities of Rotarians were correct.
DG Sheth said the District, which had a membership of nearly 4,000, could be proud of many of its achievements. This year 12 new clubs had been started and by the end of the year it aimed to have 100 clubs. Over the years it had undertaken some great projects and continued to do iconic projects; had produced two AKS members and 33 Major Donors.
RIPR Roderiguez, a PDG from Columbia (D 4281), said all Rotarians could be proud of the work they had done for the eradication of polio. “We hope to see the last of polio cases this year, but we will have to wait for three years after that for the world to be declared polio-free.”
He said even though Rotary had done great things over the 110 years of its existence “we can’t continue to talk about Rotary the way we did 100 years ago. There is a new reality today and it requires a new focus. We have to reposition our image because our image has faded in many parts of the world.”
Apart from this, TRF needed more funds “so it can do even more good in the world. We need new members, but we can’t ignore older members. There are no easy answers to all these challenges but you will have to find them.”
As RI President K?R Ravindran keeps saying, the Rotarians themselves knew what their problems were, particularly in their clubs, “so you will have to fix them,” he added.
Some of the interesting speakers at the conference were Swami Nikhileshwaranand from the Ramakrishna Math, who spoke on the topic ‘Peace is possible;’ Ekta Sodha, who runs low cost private schools; and Chavvi Rajawat, a female sarpanch from Rajasthan, who is making waves by solving the community’s water problems.
Pictures by: Rasheeda Bhagat