In a path-breaking initiative paving the way for pan-India collaborations, Rotary India and Lions International will be doing a three-month joint pilot project in Kolkata from July. This was announced jointly by Shekhar Mehta and Past Lions International Director Arvinder Pal Singh at a webinar on ‘Synergy to Serve’.
Mehta proposed a 10-member steering committee, five each from Rotary and Lions, to handhold the project that can focus on any of the eight verticals — Literacy, Water, Sanitation, Health, Conflict Prevention, Environment, Disaster Management and CSR activities. “Further modalities will be worked out at the next virtual meeting. This budding partnership will lead to a marriage of two important entities — Rotary and Lions,” he said.
The joint project between the two largest service organisations would be a fitting tribute to Mehta’s parents who were active Lions and served the physically-challenged and other weaker sections of society, said Singh. “We will approach the joint project with an open heart, mindset and ready acceptance.”
When quizzed by PLID Sangeeta Jatia, the moderator, on Rotary getting its topmost executive, RI President, from a Lion’s family, Mehta replied, “before a Lion got me, a Rotarian influenced me to join his club. My father was an active Lion then, but he did not insist that I should join a Lions club only.”
Is there an inbuilt animosity between Rotary and Lions as both of them are headquartered in Chicago, US, and have journeyed through similar community projects, programmes and membership profile, mostly businessmen, asked Sangeeta. “I have huge respect for Lions as they too are serving humanity. Recently, four largest service organisations came together to give a joint call for a united front in these challenging times. Of course, we can have a healthy competition in executing community projects,” said Mehta.
There is absolutely no rivalry between the top leadership of both NGOs, said Singh, adding that “at the membership-level, there may be little differences or clashes over the issue of attracting the best talent in doing humanitarian services. But this is quite natural.” But both service organisations can think of “pooling our core competencies and leveraging our strengths for doing maximum good.”
Singh called for Rotary and Lions to explore the possibilities of “cross-funding of projects and a mechanism for service collaboration.” Sangeeta said that a joint virtual platform should be created for sharing best ideas and practices. “We stole Mehta’s pet project of heart surgeries and hence, a virtual conclave to share best projects will be useful for both,” she said.
During his term as Rotary President (2021–22), Mehta said the RI Board would have nine women out of 17 members. “Women will occupy 40 per cent of Rotary leadership and we are working to increase women’s membership from the present 20 per cent to at least 40 per cent in the next few years as I strongly believe that women are more sincere in their work and that bodes well for Rotary.”
Mehta invited Lions to Chhoti Si Asha, a ₹200 crore virtual fundraiser for disadvantaged children organised by RC Bombay, RID 3141, and Wizcraft on June 28. The three-hour virtual programme will raise money for Covid-relief and long-term projects for vulnerable children in areas of nutrition, health, education and skill development.
Lions too have done Covid relief projects worth ₹100 crore across the country. In eastern India alone, “we would have delivered three million meals to the needy and have donated PPE kits and other material worth ₹76 lakh in Punjab,” said Singh. But he called for holding awareness programmes on “the need for lifestyle changes for we have to be catalysts in society. Post-Covid, we need to change our project delivery and services too as social distancing is here to stay.”
In a changing lifestyle ushered in by the pandemic, Mehta said, “we all need to be tech-savvy as social norms such as work from home and online education will become part of our routine. We will take up digital literacy as one of our joint projects.” Summing up the virtual meet, he suggested that “families of Rotarians and Lions send their children to attend each other’s events to sow the seeds of friendship and cordiality.” Over 500 Rotarians and Lions from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal took part in the virtual meet hosted by Lions Club of Kolkata Mother Teresa Sarani.