The virtues of deweeding…

As you can see from the Letters column this month, one point made by RI President Barry Rassin at the Chennai Institute that has resonated with many readers is his response to the question raised by Past RI President K R Ravindran on what he found “the best and worst” in Rotary. Breaking down his answer into three parts — the good, the bad and the ugly — Rassin said the good was easy to spell out. The wonderful projects that Rotarians did across the world to change the lives of people. The bad was Rotaractors telling him that no Rotary club wanted them!

But it was as he described the “worst” or the “ugly” part of Rotary that the RI President revealed his anguish. The aspect of Rotary “that hurts me the most and keeps me up at night”, has to do with ethics. With complaints that needed investigation pertaining to money that had been given for projects either being “siphoned away by individuals or not getting to the project. We have to ensure that there is adequate punishment for such people,” he said.

Another troubling aspect was election complaints over which several hours had to be spent because “someone was unhappy he didn’t get elected”. Elsewhere, addressing another meeting during his visit to this region, Rassin recalled how Rotary had taught him to accept defeat, along with victory. He said he too had lost an important election; this hurt of course, but then he took a deep breath, accepted that the better person had won, and then reached out to congratulate that person.

The point to remember is that Rotary International’s top leader was standing in this zone and making these important points. And in the last couple of years, this is not the first time I have seen such concerns being raised by senior leaders. Their methods of expression, their tones and body language may vary, but the message is the same. Election disputes and corruption in executing projects are the worst things that plague Rotary in our zones. Over the last four years I have heard successive RI Presidents — from K R Ravindran, John Germ, Ian
Riseley and now Barry Rassin — raising the same concerns. RIPN Sushil Gupta, when he was TRF Trustee (till June 30, 2018), and now Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty, as also RI Director C Basker, are raising the same concerns from different platforms. Add to this the shameful practice of phantom clubs, and members joining wholesale and leaving wholesale, and the image of Rotary in our zones, particularly India, gets sullied. Fortunately, as these senior leaders point out, the number of Rotarians indulging in such disgraceful practices is minuscule.

Every Rotarian who wears his/her pin with pride needs to introspect why the Rotarians in this region, who work so hard to change the lives of the less fortunate around them, allow their image to get tarnished because of a few black sheep. As President Rassin concluded, “clearly in some places we are not functioning in accordance with the ethics of Rotary”.

At a time when Rtn D Ravi Shankar from Bengaluru has raised our tiranga high by his stunning gift of ₹100 crore (over $14 million) to TRF, the second highest after the Gates Foundation, and the fourth Indian will be at the helm of RI come 2020–21, India simply cannot afford to have these warts or glitches. A good gardener/planter knows the virtues of deweeding…

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Rasheeda Bhagat

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