Rotary leaders from across the world converged at the ITC Grand Chola, Chennai, for the Rotary Institute for Zones 4, 5 & 6A, (December 9–14) and the entire week was filled with camaraderie and bonhomie, energising the delegates through powerful presentations, exchange of ideas and lots of learning.
The Convener, RI Director P T Prabhakar, and Institute Chair PDG Raja Ramakrishnan, worked hard to structure the GETS, DGN Seminar and the DTTS to prepare the governors-elect and governors-nominee to achieve the ambitious goals set by the leadership. Prabhakar introduced the speakers at various sessions and inspired the DGEs and DGNs with his motivating talk.
There were 900 participants from eleven countries. With RI President Gary Huang as the chief guest and senior leaders such as RIPE K R Ravindran, TRF Trustees Julio Sorjús, Jackson Hsieh and Sushil Gupta, RI Directors Larry Lunsford, Safak Alpay and Prabhakar, RI Directors-elect Frederick Lin and Manoj Desai, PRIPs Rajendra K Saboo and Kalyan Banerjee, PRIDs Y P Das, Shekhar Mehta and Panduranga Setty, and Rotary Foundation India Chair Ashok Mahajan and staff from Rotary International Headquarters and South Asia Office in New Delhi, it was a star-studded and meaningful event for the Rotarians.
Overview of sessions:
Following the warm welcome by Institute Chair PDG Raja Ramakrishnan on December 9, the next five days included power-packed plenary sessions addressed by motivational speakers, and the break-out sessions enabled the District officials to thrash out various issues and learn from each other’s experience on membership growth plans, promoting public image, improving contributions to TRF etc.
Valuable inputs on membership were provided by Michele Berg, RI’s Chief Programmes and Member Service Officer and James Robinson, Director – Strategy, Innovation and Evaluation. Janna Glucksman, Regional Grants Officer Programmes & Grants, TRF, and Kristin Brown, Manager, Rotary Service Connections, shed light on TRF global grants and other RI programmes.
With RI District 3131 topping the list in Rotary India membership growth, new Rotary clubs, highest growth in women members, maximum number of new Interact and Rotaract clubs, ARC and PDG Deepak Shikarpur, D3131 shared his experiences with the DGEs and district membership officials. District 3131 also topped in per capita overall contribution ($ 1.59m), Term Gifts contribution ($ 800,000 – No. 1 in the world), Polio Fund in South Asia ($275,000), maximum number of AKS members (3) in Rotary year 2012-2013 and ranked No. 2 in South Asia for overall contributions to TRF. Rotary Coordinators Basker and Vijay Jalan also spoke on the importance of increasing membership.
RRFCs Madhu Rughwani and S R Yogananda, along with resource persons Sanjay Parmar and Jayashree Raveendiran from RISAO inspired the delegates on Foundation giving. Jayashree, along with Joseph Thomas, talked about the role of RI South Asia Office.
GETS was attended by 39 DGEs, including one each from Nepal and Bangladesh. Addressing the governors-elect with his trademark inspiring speech, PRIP Kalyan Banerjee set a target of $14 million from India towards TRF contributions. By 2017, when TRF celebrates its centennial year, India should top $20 million and rank No.2 in Total Giving in the world and No.1 in per capita giving, he said.
His main concern was the “growing disharmony and chaos of Rotary clubs of India and election disputes and mismanagement, which are on the rise.” He passionately appealed to the delegates to “please put up your right hand and say to yourself, ‘I know what is wrong with my District and I promise I shall set it right.’ Just do that, my brothers and sisters — because today to RI and the Board, Indian (Rotary) problems are the biggest challenges. We go to court and make criminal complaints against the General Secretary. In Rotary, yes, we have differences. But why can’t we just let it remain within our clubs or districts? Why must we take it to the court?” he asked.
Banerjee stressed on continuity of projects and called on the DGEs to give thrust to literacy projects and focus on Gen Next. Giving valuable advice to the incoming DGs, he said, “As DG, you may have to talk a lot. But please try to be a good listener as well. People will love you a lot for this.” He reminded them that after a year, they go back to their own clubs and “someone will take the seat you just left. So make this one year monumental and to really succeed, you will have to look beyond yourself. Leave your District better than how you found it.”
Thirty-two DGNs attended the seminar which was chaired by PDG Surya Prakash Bhat. Desai said a new Strategic Plan would be enforced; Membership, public image and service projects, being the three legs of the tripod, would be the focus. “No personalised theme,” he requested the DGNs. His plan to bring in a new approach as RIDE was evident throughout the seminar. On Foundation giving, Desai said, “Innovation is the name of the game. Innovate or Evaporate. Traditional Membership seminar, traditional Foundation seminar… the last five years, the graph has shown a zigzag pattern. Now we will show that the upward trend has started and it will continue.”
One of the DGNs was concerned about the bifurcation plans for her District. Desai reassured her that bifurcation eases pressure on the District leaders and enables them to perform better. “My target, set by PRIP Raja Saboo, is to have 50 Districts in India, so that our voice is heard. It is one-tenth of COL.” He also urged them to partner with corporates to explore the CSR advantage. Desai advised the DGNs not to overload the club presidents with their personal goals as the clubs already have the RI Presidential Citation and the national priority, which now is literacy.
The District Trainers Training Seminar, chaired by PDG Krishnan V Chari and PDG Manandi Suresh as Vice Chair, was a lively programme with interactive floor participation from the District Trainers. While Chari elaborated on the roles and responsibilities of a District Trainer, Basker highlighted the regional membership plans, new invoicing and club central. “Each region has its own challenges and issues, and is therefore allotted specific plans based on their opportunities and strength,” he said. The District Trainers presented tried and tested ideas on membership growth and retention. Some of them felt that proper training is necessary for the club presidents and assistant governors on forming an Interact/Rotaract club, organising RYLA etc.
To a question on how far the RI’s PETS programme has to be adhered to, Chari replied,“RI has laid down one important fact: Do Good in the World. Let us customise RI rules to what India and your District need. As District Trainers you are opinion makers, so shape your projects accordingly.”
Polio Flame, a novel idea of RC Madras, was lit by Gary Huang; the torch will travel around the world before reaching Sao Paulo in June 2015 for the RI Convention. It was handed over by club President Srikanth to PDG Krish Rajendran, District 3220, who has donated $1,000 for this project, to be taken to Sri Lanka.
The session ended with the recognition of PRID Ashok Mahajan, Dr E G P Haran, Rtn K C Vijayan and Rtn Rambhau Dhondu Shirode with International Service Award for Polio-free World, and certificates to PDGs Rajiv Modi, R S Rathi, Jesiah Villavarayar and Dr Senthil for their extraordinary role in polio eradication campaign.
Rotary’s commitment to support the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat campaign was sealed with Prabhakar and Desai signing the Chennai Declaration on behalf of Rotary India. This was counter-signed by Gary Huang and Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu at a session chaired by Saboo who hailed the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and called upon Rotarians to have a personal commitment towards environmental cleanliness.
The Chennai Declaration urged Rotarians to include cleanliness as their significant project and also involve the Interactors, Rotaractors and RCCs in this. Other significant features of the Declaration said that Rotary clubs of India will take up the WinS programme (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in schools) proactively and adopt schools (at least 10,000 schools every year in selected areas of the country), providing facilities and inculcating awareness in school children; develop an all-India Rotary structure to promote activities under WinS in partnership with the government; Rotary leadership will initiate and conclude similar arrangements with organisations such as UNICEF and seek financial support from corporates to meet these objectives. The Declaration also specified that Rotary clubs will undertake building of suitable toilets and wash facilities across the country.
Prior to the signing of the Declaration, all delegates took the Swachhta Pledge.
Minister Naidu’s address detailed the government’s plans for realisation of the Swachhta dream of Prime Minister Modi. He remarked that the Centre now encourages public-private partnership for successful implementation of welfare projects. “No programme can succeed without people’s participation. ‘Sab kam Sarkar karega; hum bekar baithe toh chalega’ (Government will do everything, and we can idle) no longer works.” he said, drawing applause from the audience. He called upon the corporate sector to join hands with Rotary to usher in development.
Modi congratulates Rotary
Acknowledging the commitment of Rotary to the cause of Clean India, Prime Minister Modi conveyed his appreciation through his letter addressed to Prabhakar, and tweeted his congratulations to Rotary to his 8.85 million followers.
Work hard and leave your District better than before.
PRIP Kalyan Banerjee
PRID Shekhar Mehta gave an impressive account of the activities and achievements of Rotary India Literacy Mission. The Pakistan literacy scenario was presented by Mr Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, Senior Minister of Education, Government of Sindh.
The evening of the penultimate day was pure magic as Rtn Anil Srinivasan, Naresh Iyer and Saindavi took the audience down memory lane with their soul-stirring music. The icing on the cake was honouring of music legend A R Rahman with the Polio Ambassador Award, presented by RI President Gary Huang and Corinna and RI Director P T Prabhakar and Nalini.
The Chennai Institute served as a passport to good governance and positive promotion of Brand Rotary and proved to be an unforgettable experience.