The sleepy town of Fatehpur Bishnoi, about 22 km from Moradabad, the brass city of Uttar Pradesh, has suddenly sprung to life. Passersby on the street where the Prathmic Vidyalalya and a branch of Pratham Bank are located are surprised to find nice carry bags, with the Rotary name and logo displayed prominently, being handed out… not the usual polythene ones, but sturdy bags made of cloth and fibre.
The Rotarians from RC Moradabad Heritage, RI District 3100, have taken seriously the announcement made by the UP government the previous week banning the use of polythene bags, and soon a small crowd gathers — of children, vegetable vendors and others, to collect these bags.
I am in Moradabad on an invitation from PDG Akhilesh Kothiwal, who is a member of this club and to keep my promise of initiating coverage in hitherto uncovered regions. It’s a hot and sultry day and the Rotarians take me straight from the Delhi airport and after a five-hour drive, to the primary school which educates about 100 students. Here the club has implemented the Wash in Schools or WinS project and Madhuri Gupta, who is to be installed club president that evening, has brought for the students some soap and hand towels donated by her club.
We have carried out WinS in this school; the toilets have been refurbished, there is water supply. We conduct yoga classes, do periodic health check-up.
– PDG Akhilesh Kothiwal
Cloth replaces polythene bags
As she takes the children to the hand pump and rehearses with them one more time how they should wash their hands, with a jingle, Kothiwal explains that the club has adopted this primary school for the last three years. “We have carried out all the components of WinS in this school; the toilets have been refurbished, there is water supply. We conduct yoga classes, do periodic health check-up, distribute uniforms and books and have now given an e-learning kit and one computer.”
But the computer is yet to be installed because of lack of electricity. This project was initiated, he adds, when Devakinandan Jain was the club president in 2014–15, and till now the club has spent ₹1.5 lakh. The club proposes to distribute three more e-learning kits.
Pratham Bank Chairman Rama Naik, who inaugurated the “keep the city polythene-free” campaign with his bank donating 20,000 cloth bags being distributed, says the bank which lends mainly to the agri sector and SMEs, has 413 branches in UP alone. “In partnership with Rotary we are going to make this town polythene-free and our solar energy drive, which we started 10 years ago, had resulted in over 60 of our branches being run only on solar energy. This branch is also a solar energy branch.”
Kothiwal confirms that the bank has already sanctioned a solar system for the primary school adopted by Rotary.
I want to ensure that these children remain healthy; the first step is proper handwashing, hygiene and sanitation. If they need shoes, we will get them.
– Madhuri Gupta, RC Moradabad Heritage President
Hygiene and sanitation
Club President Madhuri says, “I want to ensure that these children remain healthy and the first step is proper handwashing, hygiene and sanitation. We’re going to ask the school authorities what more these children need. If they don’t have shoes, particularly during the bitter cold winter months, we will make those available to them. I gave each child two napkins today and asked them to bring one with them to school every day.”
The next day I visit in Moradabad, the Adarsh Nagar Primary School, which had a very modest two room building, with passable hygiene and sanitation facilities. It is located in one of the poorer areas of the city and its 80 students — both boys and girls — are mostly children “of the poorest of the poor… mostly domestic servants, labourers, etc,” says former club president Tilottama Kothiwal. While this club will start implementing WinS in this school, and promise to make it shipshape in a year’s time, the club is also associated with the much more impressive secondary school on the way to Chandausi, where the Rotarians have put up a water tank, and implemented a drinking water project and ensured hygiene and sanitation under WinS guidelines. In the next phase, the club is also going to put up a dispenser for sanitary napkins.
That the Rotarians of Moradabad have taken to their hearts the WinS programme is obvious when I visit another school — Ram Chandra Sharma Kanya Intercollege, which offers education till Class 12 to 750 girls. This school has been adopted by RC Moradabad Central. Its President, Anujj Agarwal, insists I “inaugurate” a sanitary pad vending machine.
Spanking clean school
At this impressive and spanking clean school, RCM Central has already implemented WinS. “During my year as president, whatever help we can render to make this school a clean and hygienic one, will be given. Today we gave them a sanitary vending machine. They have now asked for an RO drinking water purifier and next week we will install an RO machine.”
As promised, he confirmed that the RO machine has already been installed!
Agarwal adds that the UP government has a scheme called 1090 in which girls are empowered as power angels “to make them competent in self-defence. We are in discussion with the IG as we want to train at least 100 girls in the art of self-defence.”
These girls, in turn will train others; a ‘power angel’ is supposed to be as competent and effective as a police officer. Principal Bharati Agarwal thanks RCM Central and Rotary for becoming “angels” for her school. “If you see the campus shining and so neat and clean, it is thanks to Rotary,” she says.
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat