Shattering his own goals
He joined Rotary in 2003–04 on an invitation from a friend; “my business was doing well and I wanted to do some social service,” says Raman Aneja. He enjoyed the fellowship; but more than that what Rotary gave him were leadership and management skills. “Before I became president of my club in 2010–11, I used to do everything on my own in my business. But my year as president gave me the invaluable lesson about team building and team work. I did 250 projects and was declared the best president of our district!”
Aneja has 75 clubs under him, and barely four months into his year as DG, “some of the goals I had in mind as governor have already been met, so I am revising my goals,” he grins.
He set off his priorities for the year saying the district should do many good projects; “after all Rotary is known by its projects and projects also increase our public image.” The first of his projects was related to WinS; putting up 250 handwashing stations during the year. But this goal was achieved in the first three months and in Panipat alone; “so now we will be building 1,000 handwashing stations or more.” Similarly, he had thought of opening 100 E-learning
centres; but this target has been met already, so the next target was set at 300. “But it looks as though we will surpass that number too.”
Next on the cards are two mega events; a celebration of the TRF Centennial to raise funds as well as the 25th Presidential year of PRIP Rajendra Saboo.
Aneja says his objective is also to bring together Rotary, Rotarians and Inner Wheel members. “To build synergy with youth, we are having a cricket match in Mohali, through which we plan to raise $100,000; each participating club is donating $1,100. This match will be played between Rotary and Rotaractors, and I have told the Rotarians that if you are falling short of players, you can buy Rotaractors at a fee, as is done in the IPL,” he adds.
Helping farmers his top priority
As a doctor, his first priority is to organise mega camps for diabetic detection. He is the first DG of the newly carved out District 3181, which has 67 clubs and over 3030 members. “I want each club to adopt one village in our district and transform it totally on all vital parameters such as health and sanitation, literacy and education, greenery, etc,” says R S Nagarjuna.
“But much more than anything else, I am asking my clubs to concentrate on helping farmers,” he adds.
He points out that Karnataka is one of the States that has been hit hard by agricultural crisis resulting in farmers’ suicides. Most of the distress is related to farmers having little awareness or knowledge about marketing reality vis-à-vis their produce. “We want to give them a thorough education and knowledge about the market. Only when they know what the market wants can a farmer earn a decent livelihood. So we will give farmers guidelines on what crops to grow, about rainwater harvesting and how to conserve water and use it optimally, as water shortage is a big problem in our region.”
Nagarjuna adds that this being the centennial year of the Foundation, he has planned the TRF Centennial Ride, which will cover the distance of 2,000 km from Mysore to Goa and back on two-wheelers from January 12–26. In this project a minimum number of 1,000 members will donate $1,000 to TRF, raising $100,000. “My target is to raise half a million dollars during the year; our combined District had given only $300,000 last year.”
He will also prioritise the next generation; “our District was always famous for its Rotaractor movement, but over the last three or four years, this movement has become rather weak.
I want to revitalise it.
A smile from a beneficiary is his gift
“Rotary has changed my way of life, in every possible way. If anybody asks me a question or wants something, I respond to it applying the 4-Way-Test,” says Sarbjeet Singh. A second- generation Rotarian, both he and his wife, Surjit Kaur, also a doctor, joined RC Kapurthala Elite when it was started in 2007 as a couples’ club, with 64 members and 32 couples. She is a past Inner Wheel chair from D 307.
Passionate about Rotary even before joining it, he says he used to accompany his father to Rotary meetings. Asked what he enjoys the most about Rotary, Singh says, “The fellowship that Rotary gives us is fine, but honestly what gives me the greatest joy is seeing a smile on the face of a beneficiary… I believe that the real essence of Rotary comes only from that.”
His priorities this year will be raising funds for the Foundation as well as increasing membership in the District with 110 clubs and over 3,200 members, concentrating on both youth and women to do so. As for TRF goal, he says his target is $150,000; “in our District there is not much giving; last year we raised $125,000, and the highest ever has been $214,000”. Both he and his wife are going to become Major Donors, and he is confident that he will not only meet his goal, but surpass it. “Or else I will put in the money myself,” he smiles.
Organ donation is his watchword
He was on his way to inaugurate a toilet block built by RC Pangaserry in a school. While the District’s WinS target is 2,222 schools, it has already covered 1,800. “I hope to meet our goal by December after which schools will get busy with their exams,” says John Daniel.
His planning is meticulous; he rolls out a list of activities that include a cricket tournament, cultural competition and a youth festival — “all these to bring in young blood into Rotary.” He is promoting patriotic spirit in schoolchildren by observing Independence and Republic Day with fanfare.
His focus is cancer care and promoting organ donation awareness. About 6,000 volunteers have been roped in to sensitise people on organ donation. “Organ donation is close to my heart and I became governor to lay more emphasis on it,” says Daniel. The District has acquired a mammography bus to screen people in the interior areas for cancer. The incidence of the disease is more in this region due to radiation caused by mineral sand mining and pollution from cashew factories, he says.
Living by his late father’s advice to spend a percentage of his earnings on charity, he has sponsored the marriage of nine girls and constructed 11 houses for the needy, through his private trust.
He had no inclination to join Rotary for a long time. “I thought it was all about playing cards and liquor. Being a teetotaler, I thought it will not suit me.” On a friend’s invitation he got enrolled in RC Quilon East in 1997, but did nothing for a couple of years. “Then my presidential year and first project — donating TV and VCD players to a prison — hooked me in and this year I am all set to become a Level III Major Donor,” he says.
A stickler for punctuality, he was inspired by RID Manoj Desai, and is known for beginning his events on time and finishing them well ahead. “No mementoes, bouquets or gifts. I’ve requested clubs to donate that money to TRF.”
He plans to raise $10 lakh for TRF and bring in 1,500 new Rotarians. “I marvel at our collective power to realise the dreams of the lesser-privileged. I can never tire of Rotary and am against the words ‘tired’ and ‘retire’.”
He loves challenges
He was on his way to his hospital to perform a surgery when I called him for this interview. “Are you going to beautify someone?” I ask. “Yes, I am going to treat a small child with cleft lip,” said Ramachandran Bharat. This is his 25th year as a Rotarian and he “loves and enjoys every moment of it.” His wife Vijaya Lakshmi is a cardiologist and between the two, cleft care and fixing free pace makers for heart patients are “our domain of doing good for humanity.” Bharat has been part of the medical mission team to Rwanda and Malawi and is all excited to serve again at Accra, Ghana, in March 2017. He visits Odisha every month to perform cleft corrective surgeries. “I want to break the myth that plastic surgery is expensive. No, it is not.” He is more into reconstructive surgery than cosmetic surgery.
He lists out the district’s challenges. Digitisation is the biggest; “most of them are in business. But they don’t know how to operate computers and are not comfortable with e-voting. So, I have appointed tech-savvy people to help out the presidents with uploading data in Club Central and planning workshops to familiarise them with computers.”
He is concentrating on breathing life into weak clubs. Most clubs, he says, do not maintain proper accounts and “basic Rotary principles need to be hammered into them.” Maoist activities is another problem in the region. “Whenever I visit these belts, my wife insists that I text her twice a day about my safety,” he smiles.
He is excited about the Rotary eye hospital being constructed at Gaya with global grants and the medical mission to Accra that will be hosted by his district in March 2017. He has sanctioned Rs 1 lakh from the District Grants to each club to construct toilets and handwash stations in schools.
He says the progress in membership growth is quite slow with less than 100 new members added so far, while his target is to add 550 members to the existing 3,800. While the TRF contribution goal is set at $5 lakh, “I’ll be happy if I can raise $4 lakh,” says Bharat. He has planned fund raisers such as raffle coupons called Special Chabbis worth Rs 2,000 each which he hopes will fetch $1.5 lakh.
Literacy is his passion
He is all praise for his “real star leaders” and is confident of exceeding the TRF target of $2 lakh, which will be a record for his District. He is also hopeful of raising Rs 30 lakh towards the Polio Fund. “I plan to add 500 more members and charter 11 new clubs,” says Sreerama Murthy, having chartered already three new clubs.
He is happy that his district has presented the Nation Builder Awards to 2,010 teachers and his team is actively promoting literacy and WinS through several rallies and projects. “We will be distributing 5,000 dual desks and 125 E-learning kits to schools in rural areas through global grants,” he says.
Murthy is a Rotarian since 1977 and considers the screening of 1,100 patients and the 600 surgeries performed through a mega eye camp organsied by his club as his best moment. “This and the rehab programme we did that transformed the lives of 120 notorious criminals, when I was the club secretary, glued me to Rotary.” His son, a doctor in Bengaluru, is also a Rotarian.