The pioneering role played by the Rotary Club of Madras and the yeoman service rendered by its leaders in eradicating polio from this part of the world through partnerships with the government, NGOs and hospitals were recalled and appreciated at a glittering event held in Chennai to celebrate the club’s 90th anniversary.
Complimenting them for their great work, RID 3232 DG R Srinivasan said, “I have known and seen first-hand how S L Chitale and his dedicated team worked closely with labs and health agencies to mount a determined fight to eradicate polio in the 1980s. For any DG, it is a pleasure to work and coordinate with RC Madras whose leaders think big and execute big projects in a time-bound manner.”
Describing the club, which is the third oldest in India as a “citadel of friendship and a temple of service”, the DG said that during his official visits, he can always bank on the club members to make generous contributions to TRF.
One of the major distinctions of this club is that its past presidents N K Gopinath and S N Srikanth will be among the four Indians (out of seven global Rotarians) to receive the International Service Award for a Polio-free World from TRF’s PolioPlus Committee. They will receive the award at the Rotary Convention in Toronto.
In a presentation past president Gopinath traced the history of the club and said its first meeting was held on May 10, 1929, at the Connemara Hotel and all the 30 charter members were non-Indians (27 British, two Swiss and one American). The club was chartered on July 19, 1929. C G Armstrong, Chairman of the Madras Port Trust, was the first president of the club and industrialist Raja Sir M A Muthiah Chettiar was the first Indian to be inducted to the club. However, it was Sir Mohammad Usman, the Home Minister in the Madras Presidency, from the Justice Party, who became the first Indian President of the club in 1935–36.
For any DG, it is a pleasure to work and coordinate with RC Madras whose leaders think big and execute big projects.
— DG R Srinivasan
He traced back the growth of Rotary in India to the arrival of James Wheeler Davidson, a Rotary Commissioner from Calgary, Canada, with a mandate to set up clubs in Europe, Asia and the Far East. Davidson was given a budget of $8,000 to accomplish this onerous task. “However, he spent $250,000 of his own money to set up 23 Rotary clubs across Europe, the Middle-East, Asia and the Far East in a span of two years (1929–30), with a passion of a missionary.” Often called the Marco Polo of Rotary, the pioneering role of Davidson needs to be celebrated by the Rotarians in India. Despite many odds, such as “suffering the Madras summer heat constantly,” and with very little fellowship in those days, he managed to set up this great movement in South India.
It was Davidson who recommended Sir Frederick E James, Vice-President of UPASI, as Honorary Commissioner for RI in the Middle Asia Region in 1932, which also saw the first Rotary Convention in Calcutta. Sir James, who was knighted in 1941, was the charter member of RCM and the first RI Director from India (1933–34). He was also the first governor of District 89 in 1936–37 during which the first district conference was held in Madras and served a second term in 1938–39.
In his address, Club President P N Mohan said, “we are in a landmark year as the club is stepping into its 90th year of service.” It was a matter of pride that the club had such a phenomenal history. He confirmed that the club would get the Guinness Certificate for holding the ‘Largest Drug Awareness Lesson’ in the world and thanked Youth Service Chair M Sesha Sai for the achievement.
On Foundation giving, he said $82,000 has been collected in this Rotary year (2017–18) and was confident of reaching the target by getting the balance $18,000 by June 30. He urged the members to contribute liberally to the Polio Fund
TRF Chair Paul Netzel had set a target of collecting $1.5 billion in the next three years. “We are going to file a number of global grant projects such as Schools into Smiles and medical centres, hence please contribute for making Rotary grow,” he appealed to the members.
Earlier, RCM President-nominee Dr Vijaya Bharathi presented a cheque of $10,000 to DG Srinivasan for TRF. Mohan cut the cake to mark the club’s 90th year of service in the presence of DG Srinivasan, PDGs and veteran Rotarians.
Pictures by V Muthukumaran