In a significant gesture to knit all the 100-plus-year-old Rotary clubs across the world, RC Calcutta, RID 3291, entered into a memorandum of agreement (MoA). Club Presidents Purnendu Roy Chowdhury of RC Calcutta and Jackie Rodriguez of RC Manila signed the understanding in the presence of RI President Mark Maloney, RIPN Shekhar Mehta and Nick Locsin, Chairman, International Relations Committee from Manila, Philippines. Later, RC Shanghai will be inducted into this Circle of Centennial Rotary Clubs to offer a platform to share best practices and create a special bond of fellowship, said DG Ajay Agarwal, District 3291.
Addressing a gathering of 4,200 Rotarians from 32 countries at the first plenary of Rotary India Centennial Summit (RICS) in Kolkata, Agarwal recalled the formative years of RC Calcutta when R J Coombes, a steel merchant from the US, invited 45 of his close friends to the erstwhile Peliti’s restaurant in Calcutta on Sep 26, 1919. “He was so impressed by the idea of friendship, fellowship and service being followed by Rotary that he wanted to start one such club in Calcutta which got its charter on Jan 1, 1920 with 20 charter members,” the DG said. Over the decades, Rotary has become a part of Kolkata’s elite circle, shaping the heritage structures and enhancing the aesthetics of the City of Joy as in the case of building the Howrah bridge across the Hooghly River. Rotarians as members of a special committee played a key role in transforming a pontoon bridge into the Howrah bridge in 1927.
Nitish Chandra Laharry was the first Indian to be elected as Club Secretary in 1926–27 and with his sterling contributions to Rotary, he went on to become the first RI President from India in 1962–63. “The centenary has meant many things to us all, but most importantly, it has meant the setting of new vistas and vision of our service activities, a determination and intrinsic rededication to ensure that Rotary engages even more and serves even brighter,” said Agarwal.
RC Calcutta has taken up diverse projects worth $3 million (₹20 crore) to mark its centennial with RIPN Shekhar Mehta giving it all encouragement and support. “So far, we have built 1,000 toilets, 200 borewells and made 20 villages open defection free. We have constructed a free residential school in Purulia for 250 children, while two such schools for 200 students each in Howrah and Barmangwa are in the making,” said the club’s Centennial Committee Chair Saumen Ray. Besides 1,000 heart surgeries, 100,000 children were immunised in Howrah.
Twenty-nine Rotary clubs were sponsored including RC Calcutta Centenary to mark 100 years of Rotary in India and “we are on course to achieve the target of inducting 100 Rotarians, 100 Rotaractors and 300 Interactors in our district,” said Ray. RC Calcutta is targeting to add 38 new members this Rotary year. The vintage club has added 10 new global partner clubs and opened Rotary wards in two government hospitals to serve thousands of patients. Fundraisers like the Centennial Golf Tournament and Vintage Car Show created a new Rotary buzz in the city.
Following the lead given by RID Bharat Pandya, “we are thinking of doing a $2 million scale grant project in which 100 villages will be turned into ODF and 100 schools will become Happy Schools with the help of five domestic clubs and five foreign clubs. This grand project is being worked out,” said Ray.
Till now, the centennial projects had reached out to 1.2 lakh beneficiaries in and around Kolkata. “With the MoA for the Circle of Centennial Clubs, we are extending our fellowship and networking with such clubs across the world for a snowballing effect,” he added. PDG Rajani Mukerji gave the vote of thanks.
Picture by Jaishree