As the centennial celebrations of Rotary India kicked off in Kolkata at the star-studded centennial summit, which saw the participation of some 4,000 delegates from 32 countries, including several present and incoming RI Directors and Trustees, RIPN Shekhar Mehta explained with facts and figures why he calls Rotary India the Kohinoor of Rotary.
“This is truly an epoch-making year for Indian Rotarians; 100 years for any organisation is a momentous occasion and I get goosebumps when I, as Chair of the Centennial Committee, evaluate the service we do. For an organisation, whose motto is Service above Self, the best way to celebrate is to enhance our service activities.”
Indian Rotarians had raised the bar “to make Rotary India the most famous precious gem of the Rotary world” through their membership, Rotaract, programmes and projects, TRF giving and the leadership in India. Buoyed by the success of eradication of polio in 2011 (when India had the last case of polio), Indian Rotarians have taken up major challenges in each area of focus.
“At a time when the growth figures of Rotary are not encouraging, India’s membership is a silver lining. With a growth rate of 44 per cent over the last 10 years, our membership is 12.07 per cent of world membership.” India was poised for a leap in growth, with Indian Rotarians having picked up the gauntlet and committing to bring one member each in the next 30 months. He had asked this question to over 15,000 Rotarians in the last three months and their response had always been overwhelming.
It is pouring Arch Klumph Society members in India; we have the second highest number of AKS members in the world.
— RIPN Shekhar Mehta
When he asked the packed hall at the inaugural session if each of them would do so, there was a roar of assent. Said a beaming Mehta: “This commitment is being made in front of the man who wants to ‘grow Rotary’ (President Maloney), which is his clarion call.” Retention too will be high on the agenda of Indian Rotarians, he added.
The RIPN said Rotaract was thriving in India. We have 24 per cent of the Rotaract clubs in India and 41 per cent of the world’s Rotaractors are here. The conversion numbers were encouraging too. “Last week I was in PRIP Kalyan Banerjee’s district (RID 3060) conference, and I saw these former Rotaractors who had gone on to become district governors. In the last 10 years, from RID 3060 seven Rotaractors, four who had been DRRs, have become DGs.”
With the new legislation on Rotaract, Mehta said he was confident that India would not only get more Rotaractors, but many of them would also convert into Rotarians.
Programmes and projects
“If our membership and Rotaract are strong, our work in serving our communities is even stronger. The work that Indian Rotary clubs and districts do is unparalleled. To give a perspective, 38 DGs from India, and one from Nepal, have given a commitment to do projects worth over $300 million this year. I have checked every three months if they’d like to revise their targets downwards, and not one has done it. Their commitment is unwavering.”
Addressing the Governor of West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar, who was present, he said over the last 10 years, “two million people have got their eyesight at over 200 eye hospitals that we run in India. If one child gets a hole in the heart in our family, our world turns upside down. Over the last 10 years more than 20,000 children have undergone heart surgeries, and today they are alive because of the “gift of life” that Rotary has given them.”
Across India, Rotary runs more than 30 blood banks, and is committed to skill development of 30,000 widows and their children and of this, 20 per cent has already been accomplished.
“We have provided 25,000 shelter kits benefitting 125,000 people; and gave dignity to 100,000 people by constructing 20,000 rural toilets. We have set up over 25,000 E-learning units, improving the learning experience of 7.5 million students. More than 70,000 teachers have been trained and felicitated for the work they do.
“Over 85,000 adults have been given dignity because we made them literate and it is little children who are making these adults literate. In India, if we try to send the child of a beggar back to school, it’s a tough task. Try and send the daughter of a sex worker to school, it’s an extremely tough task. But Rotarians in India have sent back to school over 50,000 children,” he added.
Indian Rotarians have built libraries and more than 2,500 schools have been totally renovated and converted into Happy Schools benefitting 75,000 students. “Our programmes now span the length and breadth of the country and we work with both state and central governments.”
Coming to Literacy, Mehta said the Rotary India Literacy story was “unparalleled; there isn’t a more holistic programme of total literacy by any other organisation than the one Rotary has in India.” Rotarians were working in tandem with the government and several State governments had invited Rotary to work with them in their States. “We have worked in 30,000 schools benefitting more than 100 million children. Working with the government, we are committed to making India totally literate by 2025, a dream that was given to us by PRIP Banerjee.”
Health and WASH
In both healthcare and WASH, Indian Rotarians had laid down “some ambitious targets; such is the determination of the Rotarians that last week, when I met the President of India and the Home Minister, I have given them in writing that Rotary is committed to doing 10 per cent of the work the government is doing in selected areas.”
Over the last 10 years more than 20,000 children have undergone heart surgeries, and today they are alive because of the “gift of life” that Rotary has given them.
— RIPN Shekhar Mehta
He could make this commitment because in certain selected areas, Rotarians were already doing this. In water and sanitation, they were committed to revitalising 10,000 water bodies out of a government target of 100,000 water bodies, and setting up 10,000 check dams against a government target of 100,000. “Friends, these are stretch goals, but then so was polio.” During NIDs, even today, a huge number of Rotarians volunteer their time for polio eradication by going out and giving drops so that no child is missed out.
“Our contribution to TRF is another reason for India to be the Kohinoor of Rotary. For the last three years we have consistently been the second highest giver to TRF… giving $22 million a year.” With the US dollar hovering around ₹70, the equivalent in Indian rupees comes to a staggering ₹1,500 crore a year.
“It is pouring Arch Klumph Society members in India; we have the second highest number of AKS members in the world; we are second only to big brother USA. And we have the highest number of endowments. We have here with us the new poster boy of giving in the Rotary world — Ravishankar Dakoju. This one man has committed a whopping ₹100 crore.”
Mehta said Rotary India had the best leadership in the world. “At the age of 86, PRIP Rajendra Saboo is leading medical missions to Africa, not once or twice but at times even three times a year. PRIP Kalyan Banerjee not only dreams for a totally literate India but works for it and is ready to do anything, go anywhere required, to achieve that goal. Past Director Sushil Gupta is known as the WASH man of Rotary in India; if there is a natural disaster, the man who can turn rubble into rubies is PRID Yashpal Das.
“If you need money for a good cause, you just need to ring up PRID Ashok Mahajan, PRID P T Prabhakar has done some outstanding work in WinS; PRID Manoj Desai has used his vocation as an orthopaedic surgeon to do hundreds of corrective surgeries for polio-afflicted. Today we sorely miss PRIDs Sudarshan Agarwal and O P Vaish. PRID C Basker, Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty, RI Directors Kamal Sanghvi and Bharat Pandya have provided outstanding leadership as representatives from India on the RI Board and our Foundation.”
While the senior leaders from India were ‘the lighthouses”, the leadership skills of hundreds of past governors and thousands of Rotarians, “each of them eager to bring a smile on the faces of our countrymen, are exemplary. No wonder our Rotary dreams are big, and we will try to make them into reality.”
In conclusion, Mehta thanked the delegates and said: “Never before in a voluntary event, so many senior leaders have turned up. We want to have a larger number, and hopefully that will be at a Rotary Convention in Delhi in the near future.”
Convener of the meet Kamal Sanghvi said the organisers were “overwhelmed” at the presence of Rotary leaders and delegates from 32 countries, and to honour their presence, their flags were displayed on the stage.
The size and complexity of global challenges need changemakers of every shape and size. Let us resolve once again here to leave our world a better place than we found it.
— RI Director Kamal Sanghvi
“We all live in a rapidly transforming and an increasingly interconnected world. The size and complexity of global challenges need changemakers of every shape and size,” he said and dedicated the centennial summit to all the “changemakers in this audience, whose combined courageous action focuses on and benefits our communities. Let us resolve once again here to leave our world a better place than we found it.”
Welcoming the gathering Summit Chair Vinod Bansal urged the delegates “to use this occasion to rededicate ourselves to the cause of community welfare, be more representative of a diverse world, more effective in our service to humanity and to showcase Rotary’s ethos and culture as a compassionate and humane body.”
Time for Rotary India to help other countries
At the Centennial Summit in Kolkata, RIPN Shekhar Mehta threw a gauntlet at Indian Rotarians — do service projects in other countries. Having planned and executed thousands of service projects in India, “we have matured as a player in the international service arena and we want to share our resources and talent with other countries. Next year, of the total grants we do in India, we want to do five per cent with other countries, and 10 per cent the following year. India now wants to play its part proactively and responsibly in the growth of Rotary across the world,” he added.