In an impassioned plea to Rotarians across India to embrace the government’s Universal Immunisation programme to rid India of diseases such as measles, rubella, TB etc, INPPC Chair Deepak Kapur said, “For eight decades, from 1905 till the mid-1980s, Rotarians built toilets, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless, reached medicines to the sick and promoted world peace, but the local Rotary club was still called the Roti club. Then towards the end of the 1980s came PolioPlus and suddenly the man on the street discovered what Rotary was all about. He recognised the Rotary wheel, and we got esteem, credibility, all thanks to PolioPlus. Today the United Nations proudly calls Rotary its partner, and Bill Gates insists on meeting Rotarians whenever he comes to India, courtesy PolioPlus.”
Kapur then posed a query to the assembled Rotarians: “Do you know how difficult it was to meet the district magistrate? Today Rotarians are welcome in the office of the Joint Secretary or Secretary, and even ministers. Today Rotarians can shake hands with Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar and many other celebrities from Bollywood not because of our irresistible appeal but because of PolioPlus.”
No polio case in India for 7 years is a big story, it is such a big story that everybody is claiming a role in making India polio-free.
Despite all this, the most common refrain from Rotarians was that Rotary wasn’t being given credit for eradicating polio from India. “And that we don’t get recognition. This is not true; of course, we don’t get credit in every newspaper or TV story. Why? Because we don’t work for that recognition; Do we send out press releases? No polio case in India for seven years is a big story, it is such a big story that everybody is claiming a role in making India polio-free.”
Kapur urged the assembled Rotary leaders from various districts to “narrate how Rotary transformed yesterday’s impossible into today’s inevitable, how it made polio eradication into a people’s movement and raised mega funds to make this dream possible. ₹10,000 crore raised by Rotarians through direct contribution and ₹44,000 crore through Rotary’s advocacy have gone into the PolioPlus programme.”
The Rotarians should also talk about the following:
- The involvement of corporates, and the $12 million that Rajashree Birla has given.
- Rotary’s advocacy with political leaders, bureaucrats, religious leaders.
- Rotary transformed polio eradication into a movement by the people and convinced vacillating leaders on the need for supplementary immunisation.
- Rotary promoted the concept of NIDs and sub NIDs and blew the lid off the health workers fudging figures.
- Rotary pioneered the concept of small giveaways — balls and whistles — to children to attract them to the booths.
- Rotary acted as a bridge between the Centre and the States when they did not see eye to eye.
- Rotary transported the vaccine by rail, road, camel and even by boat.
- Rotary’s ulema committee busted myths and helped overcome resistance.
- Write letters to editor and send short articles for magazines.
- Interact with local surveillance officers.
- Connect with the local politicians or MLAs; invite them to inaugurate Rotary polio booths.
- Have you ever asked a local FM channel to carry polio eradication messages?
- Do your clubs use social media to promote polio eradication?
- Have you spoken about polio eradication in schools, colleges, and put End Polio Now stickers on your cars?
- Have you thought of End Polio Now message ring tones on your mobiles?
- Has your district paid for ads on polio eradication in the media?
If the answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, “then you are entitled to shout at every Institute, district or club meets that Rotary gets no credit for eradicating polio from India. Not otherwise. Do all this and see if Rotary gets a mention. Polio brought for Rotary both esteem and fame and commitment, created enthusiasm and energy among Rotarians and helped India develop one of the finest health infrastructures in the world. What a shame it would be if the potential of this infrastructure and enthusiasm was to die. Rotary in India has decided this won’t be allowed to happen. We will leverage this infrastructure and enthusiasm to help our government get rid of measles and rubella,” said Kapur.
We don’t get credit in every newspaper or TV story. Because we don’t work for that recognition.
“We have to make what was called in the olden days a carbon copy. In these days of Whatsapp, all you have to do is press ‘Control-C’ and ‘Control-V’ or copy and paste or fwd. All the tried and tested strategies for polio can be used for MR immunisation. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If we don’t do this, it would be a shame,” he concluded.