New initiatives undertaken by Zones 4, 5 and 6A, during the last 15 months of his tenure as Director, including comprehensive training programmes, stricter norms on holding them, a quantum jump in the reporting of Rotaractors in our zones and new publications brought out by the Rotary News Trust, were highlighted in his inaugural address at the Chennai Zone Institute by RI Director C Basker.
At the outset he thanked “each and every one of the 151,853 Rotarians in our zones” from 3,929 Rotary clubs in the 40 districts of Zones 4, 5, 6A for ensuring that our zones not only contribute to membership growth of RI but once again we were positioned as second in the world last year by contributing over $19 million to TRF.”
With the support of his DGs and other senior Rotary leaders in India, as Director, he had focused on many initiatives, with the main aim being to “strengthen our Rotary clubs so that they can address the local community concerns and build a good public image for Rotary.”
Importance of training
Basker said he had placed great importance on training programmes of club presidents, secretaries and other officers which had now been structured on the RI handbooks translated into regional languages and distributed. Disha, a national-level training programme for District Chairs in membership, Public Image and Foundation had been started. DGs had been given templates to conduct district-level seminars to give Rotarians clarity on all the focus areas of Rotary and its priorities.
“I’ve also got the RI Board to recommend that district training meetings be held within the district boundaries to conserve participants’ cost and time. Getting more women into Rotary had been prioritised and we are seeing great service projects happening in our zones through all-women Rotary clubs.”
We are seeing great service projects happening in our zones through all-women Rotary clubs.
– RI Director C Basker
To encourage clubs to do better and larger service projects e had initiated the ‘Best club project video’ to ensure that Rotary clubs shared their good work done in the community with the rest of the Rotary world. “This will help us showcase our work on the number of man-hours and money spent on service projects for the benefit of the community,” he added.
Spotlight on Rotaract
The RI Director said that during his tenure he had focused on Rotaractors and the organisation of two successive DG and DRR coordination meetings at Hyderabad and Delhi had resulted in “massive improvement in member reporting by Rotaract clubs to RI.” The reporting rate had risen by a staggering 63 per cent — from 9 to 72 per cent, and “we expect to capture nothing short of 100 per cent membership data of Rotaract this year.” Such dramatic improvement had been made possible by giving incentives; “Rotary Coordinators have offered to take the best performing DRR of 2018–19 of the zones to the RI Convention in Hamburg at their own cost. I am sure this will encourage all DRRs to work tirelessly to achieve their set goals.”
Rotary News Trust initiatives:
Rotaract News, a digital quarterly magazine brought out by Rotary News Trust, had increased awareness among Rotaractors on the activities happening across our zones and enthused them to share the projects they were doing. In the last year, RNT had also launched a monthly e-magazine titled Rotary News Plus, that features good service projects done by Rotary clubs. “Now no Rotary club complains about not finding their service projects in the magazine!” RNT was also working on bringing out the magazine in regional languages, he said.
“We are now sending print copies of Rotary News to leading corporates in India so they can understand how Rotary can be a great partner for their CSR activities.” By streamlining the activities of RNT, particularly printing, “we have been able to save ₹4 million in its operational cost, and this money will be used for other productive purposes,” Basker added.
Thrust on accountability, transparency
Reading out the riot act to those who indulged in “financial malpractices”, he said DGs had been asked to monitor and report activities of clubs that misused the ‘Rotary’ name by forming trusts that functioned “without transparency and accountability”.
Based on a request from this zone last year TRF trustees have approved the formation of an oversight panel comprising experienced PDGs to oversee all the completed global grants in India and ensure the project was completed as spelt out in the grant application. “This is a sort of in-house audit to ensure every single dollar received is rightly spent by the clubs and districts.”
He was happy to announce that “District 3100 has been rehabilitated by the RI Board and is functioning as a regular district from this year.”
Rtn Ravi Shankar, you have made Rotary proud. Your inspiration keeps us more energised and wanting to give back more to the community.
– RI Director C Basker
Basker said RI realigns zones worldwide every eight years based on membership. “Can we think on similar lines in India and realign district boundaries in terms of membership, geographic contiguity, language and State considerations, ease of travel for DGs, etc, without increasing the number of districts?” Some DGs had to travel excessively because of their district size and this affected their efficient functioning. He urged RI officers to give suggestions on how this could be done.
An appeal for Kerala
The recent natural disaster in Kerala and some parts of Karnataka due to unprecedented floods had caused untold misery and loss of homes. He was happy that the Rotarians of Kerala and the rest of India had risen to the occasion and responded with alacrity during this humanitarian crisis. Now it was time to focus on the rehabilitation work to help those who had become homeless. PRIP Kalyan Banerjee had agreed to head the panel formed for the project of building low-cost shelters. He appealed to Rotarians to donate liberally for this cause; each such house would cost ₹3.5 lakh, and anybody donating this amount could have the new house named after a person of their choice.
Honouring Ravi Shankar
Basker said at the dawn of the new Rotary year an exciting development had stunned the entire Rotary world. “In a major philanthropic gesture, the Bengaluru-based President of RC Bangalore Orchards, District 3190, D Ravi Shankar and his wife Paola had donated a whopping amount of ₹100 crore ($14.7 million) to The Rotary Foundation.” Thanking the couple who were honoured at the Institute and who signed an MoU with TRF on how the money should be spent, the Director said, “You are a true inspiration for all of us and have made Rotary proud. You have made India proud. Your inspiration keeps us more energised and wanting to give back more to the community.”
By following the footsteps of his philanthropic father Kamlesh, who had donated all his land in Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodaan movement, Ravi Shankar had donated this money to share his wealth with the needy people through Rotary, and become the second single largest donor after the Gates Foundation. He congratulated DG Suresh Hari for motivating Ravi Shankar to give this gift.
“Please use this unique platform to share your ideas, take action and keep the Rotary wheel moving,” added EMGA Sam Patibandla.
Pictures by K Vishwanathan
PolioPlus award for PRIP Saboo
Past RI President Rajendra K Saboo was conferred the PolioPlus Pioneer Award, which was originally established in 1996 to recognise Rotarians who had rendered “outstanding personal service to PolioPlus prior to November 1992”. The award was discontinued in June 1999, but has now been reinstated by TRF Trustees as the goal of a polio-free world draws near, to recognise those Rotarians who deserved it but did not receive it between 1996–1999.
The citation said: “A number of Rotarians have contributed significantly to the tremendous progress so far achieved in the global effort to eradicate polio. The tireless efforts of these Rotarians on behalf of the PolioPlus Programme are worthy of great praise and recognition.”
Accepting the award, a deeply moved PRIP Saboo said in a choked voice that he “was extremely and truly humbled to get this honour. Part of this journey started in 1981 when I was on the Board of Directors when RI undertook the task to immunise the children of the world. And Polio 2005 was born. Since then, the journey has been continuing and we’re almost there.”
Fighting back tears, he hoped that “by God’s grace” he would be there when every Rotarian’s dream of a totally Polio-free world was realised. “Till then Usha and I hope to continue to serve Rotary and our community…”
Unable to proceed further, as he handed back the mike, PRIP K R Ravindran thrust it in Usha Saboo’s hand, urging her to say a few words. Her response: “This is an imposition… when the man who worked for it (award) doesn’t have the words, how do you expect me to find the words to express anything? Let me just say that whatever Raja has been able to do, it has been with god’s grace and he was not alone in this work. He was assisted by all of you and many more who are not present here today. Actually, all of you deserve this award!”
Welcoming the gathering, Chairman of the Institute PDG ISAK Nazar and EMGA Sam Patibandla said the Institute Committee had worked very hard to bring together over 800 delegates from 10 different countries to Chennai and make the Institute with the theme Passion to Serve a really memorable and meaningful one.