Rotary stalwarts honoured

RI President McInally honours PRIP Banerjee. PRIP Saboo, RIPN de Camargo, PRIP Ravindran and RID Roychowdhury applaud.

RI President McInally honours PRIP Banerjee. PRIP Saboo, RIPN de Camargo, PRIP Ravindran and RID Roychowdhury applaud.
PRIP Rajendra Saboo and Usha being honoured by RI ­President Gordon McInally and Heather in the presence of (from L) Institute Chair K P Nagesh, RIPN Mario de Camargo, RID Raju ­Subramanian, Vidhya, PRIP K R Ravindran, PRIP Kalyan Banerjee, RID Anirudha ­Roychowdhury and TRF Vice Chair Bharat Pandya.

At the Rotary zone institute, two Rotary stalwarts in India, both past RI presidents — Rajendra Saboo and Kalyan Banerjee — were presented lifetime achievements awards.

Reading out PRIP Saboo’s citation, RI director Raju Subramanian said he was being honoured for “a lifetime of exemplary service. As a distinguished industrialist, philanthropist and visionary leader, Saboo has held pivotal roles including trustee chair of The Rotary Foundation.” His impact had extended beyond the boardroom with notable contribution to Rotary’s healthcare projects across Africa since 1998. “His commitment to community service and education transcended borders… His legacy, marked by service beyond borders, continues to inspire Rotary and non-Rotary communities alike.” He was being honoured for “his transformative contribution and unwavering dedication to Rotary’s ideal of service above self.”

In his acceptance speech, Saboo said he had come to Chandigarh for business and “became a Rotarian to get to know people.” His journey in Rotary became exciting as he made friends, became club president, district governor, RI director and finally RI president. When his wife Usha suggested that “we should do hands on service and look beyond India,” he had initiated the medical missions in Africa which had brought him a lot of satisfaction.

RI President McInally honours PRIP Banerjee. PRIP Saboo, RIPN de Camargo, PRIP Ravindran and RID Roychowdhury applaud.

Adding a few words, in a very moving speech, Usha Saboo expressed her “gratitude for all the love, recognition and respect you have extended to Raja. His speech and hearing are impaired but at 90, he is still doing medical missions, organising heart surgeries and attending all his club (RC Chandigarh) projects.” He could do all this “because you are his friends in Rotary and are keeping the spirit of Rotary alive in him.”

Honouring PRIP Kalyan ­Banerjee, RID Subramanian said that as “the third Indian RI president, his tenure saw India become a major ­contributor to TRF. A director of United Phosphorus, he has played a pivotal role in transforming Vapi into an industrial centre.” His extensive Rotary journey since 1972 had brought him many leadership positions, taking him right to the pinnacle of Rotary as RI president. He had served in various international committees, “notably steering polio eradication efforts in India. His philosophy and leadership are captured in his words: ‘Leading in Rotary is different because here you are leading your equals. You are not here to give orders but to lend support’.” These words put in a nutshell “his ethos for collaborative leadership and service. This lifetime achievement award recognises his exceptional leadership in fostering collaboration and service above self.”

Addressing the meeting Banerjee thanked the institute committee for the “recognition and honour you bestow on me today.” Striking a note of humility, he quoted the words of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore when he was told he was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in in 1911. “In his inimitable words he had said: ‘I am undeserving of the wonderful garland you bestow on me and it is an honour difficult to comprehend as I have been doing what I have always done.”

RID Subramanian reading the citation honouring PRID Panduranga Setty. Setty’s son Shyam and President McInally look on.

He too believed that all that he had done through Rotary, “that I cherish,” was working for 51 years along with other Rotarians in serving people. “It was incredible when India became free from the dread of the polio disease in 2012 (when he was RI president). As happens on such occasions, the people on the field do the job, the bossman gets the recognition! Having said that it was truly an incredible job done, as none had expected it would happen so soon.”

Also, he added, “I was fortunate to lead TRF in 2016–17, when for the first time TRF raised $300 million.”

Banerjee then struck a poignant note which left several eyes moist in the audience. Expressing his pain and anguish at losing his wife Binota, he said, “Unfortunately my luck ran out soon after, because during the Covid days I lost my better half Binota to a complicated kidney surgery. I am trying unsuccessfully yet to recover form that loss, by immersing myself once again in Rotary, by building a university in Vapi, working yet again to build healthcare facilities, travelling and engaging in other community work. It brings to mind that old Kishore Kumar song: ‘Musafir hoon yaaro, Na ghar hei na thikana, Mujhe chalte jana hei, Bus chalte jana.’ (I am a traveller with no home, no address, my goal is to keep going on, and on.)

PRID Panduranga Setty was posthumously given a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to his son Shyam, for his exemplary service to Rotary. He passed away on January 21, 2023.


Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat


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