While the rest of India took its time in reacting to different and innovative ways of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and the three-week lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, members of RC Solapur were quick on their feet in ensuring the lockdown doesn’t affect the 100 senior citizens who have been getting a freshly cooked, hot meal from the club for over 12 years.
“As we were on the verge of lockdown, our club members approached the Solapur Commissioner of Police Ankush Shinde and put before him the plight of the 100 elderly citizens who are dependent on our Annapurna Yojana for their daily food. The CP, who himself has visited and appreciated our project in the past, had no second thoughts and granted special permission to us to ply our auto rickshaw and allow the movement of our team involved in this project, with some restrictions, which we readily accepted,” says Jayesh Patel, project chairman.
To understand the depth and importance of this iconic project of the club, one of the largest in Maharashtra, here is a brief recap. The project is in its 13th year and completed its 12th anniversary on August 4, 2019. On that occasion, I visited the club and learnt from the committee which has been nurturing this project over such long years that during those 12 years, the Rotarians of this club hadn’t missed a single day in delivering hot meals to its 100 senior citizens, come rain, shine, curfew or even hospitalisation of any of the beneficiaries.
The Rotarians spelt out for me the numbers and they are truly mind- boggling — till that day, a single club had delivered over 4,380 days (or 12 years) 438,000 tiffins, without missing a single day, spending ₹1.44 crore. And all this money had been raised by RC Solapur, with generous contributions from the community in the city and beyond.
But the challenges and hurdles they encountered over the years seem smaller compared to the grim reality of today. Most of the 100 people this project serves have no family and live alone. As the country was veering towards a total lockdown, the Rotarians realised that if they wouldn’t be able to reach the daily meal to the senior citizens, they would probably starve.
The project is in its 13th year and completed its 12th anniversary on August 4, 2019.
Even when the day curfew of March 22 was announced a couple of days earlier, these good Samaritans got to work. “We got ready for them extra theplas the earlier evening so that they could get some nutrition,” says Patel, adding, “and on occasion of Gudi Padwa, we added a special seera (kesari) to their meal!”
Even though their dedicated auto rickshaw driver Jagdish Hiremath, who delivers the tiffins to these people, is willing to continue doing so, “we are also thinking of his safety. So for those who have some provision and ability to cook at home, we are organising provisions and grocery,” adds Patel.
Also, he is happy to announce that this year’s club president, Balaprasad Nundada, has been able to raise a record collection for Annapurna… 250 people have each pledged ₹8,100, the amount required to supply a cooked meal for a year to one person.
This year 250 people have each pledged ₹8,100, the amount required to supply cooked meal for a year to one person.
RC Nasik Grapecity helps a remote village
Elsewhere in Maharashtra too, Rotarians are adding their mite to help their fellow citizens cope with current difficulties. Rotarians from RC Nasik Grapecity, RID 3030, have reached out to the villagers of a remote village in Trimbak Taluka of Nasik District, by reaching 87 grocery kits to the families living here. “This village is 48 km away from the main city and was lacking in many basic amenities,” says Rajan Pillai, Club President. The village had no access to clean drinking water, its primary school was in a pitiable condition and healthcare facilities were lacking. “Looking at these conditions, we have decided to adopt this village for three years, provide the villagers medical facilities, put up piped water supply and a storage tank, improve the school, extend micro credit to young women to start a vegetable or some other shop, and construct a check dam so that the farmers have access to enough water to have a second crop,” he says.
Club Secretary Anil Deshmukh adds that they are planning to upgrade the school by adding one more classroom and build a toilet. We want to do this before the onset of the monsoon and all our 53 members are committed to this task,” he adds.
But meanwhile, when the corona virus tragedy struck, the members came together to ensure that the villagers get their supply of essential items to keep their kitchen running.