Medical Mission, his flagship project
An 8-day medical mission in Morena District of Madhya Pradesh from February 6–13, in which over 5,000 surgeries in specialities such as Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Paediatric and Cardiology will be performed, is the flagship project of DG Bhupendra Jain this year. “We are very excited as PRIP Rajendra Saboo will be present for the entire camp,” he says.
Another goal of this DG is collecting $200,000 for TRF during its Centennial year. “This was the target given to us by TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta and I am happy that I have got commitments for the entire amount.”
Jain joined Rotary in 2001 “because I was very impressed by the service that was being done in my region by the Rotarians.” On what he has got from Rotary, he says, “first of all Rotary has given me an excellent platform for serving the community, it has taught me both discipline and time management. But above all, Rotary has given me very good friends, both in India and overseas.”
When Jain became Governor, D 3053 had 61 clubs and 2,400 members. His goal during his year is to set up 10 new clubs. Of these, four have already been chartered, two are in the pipeline and four more are on the cards. In all, he wants to add 500 new members.
Service is the key
Rotary isn’t new for him. His father, P Narayana Upadhya, was a Rotarian. “I remember dropping him for meetings at Manipal, which he would refer as ‘closed door business meets’,” says Dr Jayaprakash Upadhya. And so becoming a Rotarian was quite “natural” for him. With an MS in General Surgery, he was always passionate about treating the poor and the urge to serve in a village brought him to Kanhangad. “The place has transformed so much now from a village,” he says. He was an Interactor as a school student at Bengaluru, but his college at Belgaum had no Rotaract club. He joined Rotary in 1994, inspired by PRID Ramesh U Pai.
“If you are human, you have to be a Rotarian. People have dreams, but we Rotarians have vision, and that is to serve the poor in a way that their dignity is intact. The secret is to subtly assure them that we are there for them,” he says.
Upadhya has performed several laparoscopic tubectomies around his region, “as a random act of service, considering India’s population.”
He plans to increase his personal contribution to TRF by elevating to the second level as Major Donor. While the District’s goal for the TRF Centennial is $1 million, he hopes to raise at least $5-7 lakh, with 15 prospective Major Donors. He wants each of his team members to be a shareholder of TRF by contributing $500. He is also anxious about the leaking membership and the District’s pending Grants execution, but is confident of seeing it all through with his team’s support.
“I’ve failed miserably in making my wife Radhika a Rotarian but she is happy to be with the 126 mentally-challenged children who are being taken care of at the family’s institution, Swasraya,” he says while adding that they enjoyed the International Assembly sessions and the networking opportunity that Rotary offers.
Smashing records in membership, doing good
He had promised the Maharashtra Chief Minister that out of the State’s target of planting 2 crore trees during the year, his team would plant 2 lakh trees. “But by the end of just one day, we had already done 2.7 lakh trees; by now we must have crossed 4 lakh,” says Prashant Deshmukh. This is only one of the several environmental projects that his district has undertaken under his leadership.
“Actually, our district is balancing all the fundamentals of Rotary… membership, TRF giving, service projects,” he smiles. On membership he hopes to emerge numero uno in South Asia, with his district adding about 1,500 members. “We’ve reached about 50 per cent of our target with 700 members, which is already the highest for South Asia till now.”
District 3131, with a membership close to 5,600, has 123 clubs; during this year so far, eight new clubs have been chartered. “In all, we want to add 15 new clubs.”
“On Foundation giving too we are No 2,” Deshmukh says, adding, “our target is $1 million but we may extend this to $1.2 –1.5 million.”
On the projects side, the district is gung-ho on its medical as well as water and sanitation projects. Its work in water harvesting, particularly in the dry belts of the district, is widely recognised. “Coming to medical projects, we want to set up occupational health projects. Pune is surrounded by industrial zones, and many accidents happen, and medical services are limited for those areas. We’ve got land from MIDC and we’ll put up two more such centres. A Rotarian has helped us set up a Rotary Hospital, and we are also putting up a blood bank in an accident-prone area.”
Deshmukh is proud that “for the first time in our district I am holding a World Peace Symposium in February, which will be attended by incoming Trustee Chair Paul Netzel.”
On literacy too the District has done well; “we had signed an MoU with the Government saying we would train 5,000 teachers; that number has already crossed 6,500 and we might end up training 10,000 teachers. We’ve signed MoUs with Tata Technologies and Tata Motors on e-learning and here we are helping other nearby States too, such as Gujarat,” he adds.
Making Rotary fun for his team
It’s not quite sunny in my District, it’s foggy here and there… the sun is just peeping through,” he says, referring to his District’s TRF contribution. The region is upwardly mobile and in places such as Varanasi, Lucknow and Allahabad, though many of the Rotarians, either handloom weavers or traders, are wealthy, “they readily donate Rs 50 lakh for temple construction, but think twice before giving Rs 10 lakh for a dialysis machine. This is unlike in bigger cities where people understand the concept of charity and 80G tax exemptions,” says Pramod Kumar. The Rotarians generally believed that the main purpose of a Governor’s club visit is to collect funds for TRF. “So I had to demystify their misgivings about the Foundation and global grants.” The result — the District has bagged four Global Grants and two Term Gifts, after five years of their last matching grant project.
With a target of raising $300,000 for TRF, he proposes to increase the number of donors rather than concentrating on big money, such as from Major Donors or PHFs. “I’ve encouraged every Rotarian to contribute $26.5.”
On membership, this DG wants to induct more women and is all praise for DGN Stuti Agarwal, the District’s first woman-governor. Pramod Kumar highlights the Ghar Vapsi scheme, “to re-enroll past Rotarians back. We have got 87 ex-Rotarians back. Surprisingly, most of them haven’t been asked to join Rotary by anyone so far.”
He is concentrating on retention too, and says, “In the last 10 years, 4,700 members quit Rotary while we have 3,100 now. It’s almost 100 per cent. The District leaders must make Rotary interesting for everyone.”
His idea for clubs to undertake small, doable projects is an immense hit, the highlight being Project Annapurna, where seven clubs of Lucknow together fed 50,000 poor people. “Now 16 clubs of Varanasi are coming together to provide flood relief.”
He is not for electioneering, having dissuaded 4 out of 5 PDGs to represent the District at the CoL meet; and 3 out of 4 PDGs who wanted to be on board the RI Director’s Nominating Committee, by having a unanimous choice. “One of them even went away on a pilgrimage to the South,” he laughs.
Rotary is one big family for him and he relates people with places. “If I have to go to Mumbai, I say that I’m going to Gopal, and if I am going to Nagoji it means it is Chennai!” He is excited about the eye hospital being constructed at Ayodhya with Endowment Funds.
Dream and progress is his motto
I don’t want anyone to die of cancer, to which I lost my mother,” says Mahesh Mokalkar. He is conducting mammogram camps around his district, and has completed over 3,000 screenings. Service for the underprivileged is his passion; his team distributed 2,000 bicycles to students and 1,000 sewing machines to poor women.
He joined Rotary in 1996 when he was 24 and “my parents are my inspiration.” The family trust has pitched in with Rs 25 lakh for the mammography buses. “I encourage ideas in my team and don’t enforce mine. This has got me the members’ total cooperation and support.”
Mokalkar plans a $1.5 million contribution to TRF for the Centennial year and increase membership numbers “considerably.” He is concentrating on weak clubs, around 40 of them, with less than 20 members, and have merged them where it is possible. He proposes to install incinerators in schools and 1,000 hand wash stations, towards WinS and Literacy projects. He is also laying importance on the student exchange programmes. “My children are IYE students and I believe in the fact that the programme shapes young minds more than what is taught in school,” he says.
His most memorable moment was when, at a cancer-screening camp, he saw a woman’s relieved look when she was told that the fibroid she had wasn’t cancer. The family had lived with the trauma for two years as her husband couldn’t afford the screening charge of Rs 3,150 and Mokalkar directed her to undergo screening free of charge.