Bringing Sanity to Sanitation

rotarty-south-asia-summit-1RI President Elect Ron Burton,his wife Jetta, RI President Nominee Gary Huang and his wife Corinna attended the Summit along with 6,000 Rotarians from 15 different countries of South Asia and other countries.

RID Directors Y.P Das and Shekhar Mehta, Summit Chairman PDG Kamal Sanghvi, Jt. Chairman PDG Ravi Vadlamani, and a host of Rotarians welcomed the delegates, looked after everybody’s needs, and effortlessly managed the summit.

The inaugural session was conducted by Convenor RI Director Shekhar Mehta and Chairman PDG Kamal Sanghvi followed by the Flag Ceremony and the National Anthem recital directed by RI Director Yash Pal Das. Senior Rotarions present were: RIPE Ron D Burton, Trustee Chair Wilfrid J Wilkinson, PRIP Rajendra K. Saboo, PRIP Kalyan Banerjee, RIPN Gary Huang and others.

The core focus areas of the conference were Education, Healthcare, Water and Sanitation and Women’s Empowerment. Leading experts, educationists, social scientists from India and 15 neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, held lengthy discussions on these problems. Leading lights of the Rotarian Movement at the international level candidly expressed their views on the problems of poverty, undernourishment, low literacy and lack of opportunities for the youth to grow and prosper.

rotarty-south-asia-summit-2Hon’ble Mr. N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, who was the chief guest, said: There are a lot of similarities between government and Rotary activities. We in the government too focus on the core issues which you have selected for discussion. These problems need to be addressed. In our state, we spend Rs. 26,000 crore on education. From birth to postgraduation we provide scholarships to students. We finance 25 lakh students for their higher studies. We spend Rs. 4,500 crore per year on these scholarships. The girl children are also taken care of. We now focus on improving the quality of education and providing training for skill development because 54% of our population is below 25 years of age. Unless governments show correct guidance to the youth, they won’t be productive for the nation”. Hon’ble Mr. Reddy appreciated the work done by Rotary Club and wished to carry further collaboration with it.

rotarty-south-asia-summit-3Speaking on the occasion Mr. Shekhar Mehta, International Director said people to people relationships will help improve ties between South East Countries. Rotarians across the borders are doing a great job. We help many Pakistani children with heart surgeries. More than 200 Pakistanis got our help in India to get Cardiac Surgeries. Many such patients were also sent to Hyderabad for treatment. We would like to set up a hospital in Pakistan. We also plan to set up a Cardiac Center in Pakistan he said and added, let us serve mankind and develop relationships through service activities. Speaking on the sidelines of the conference Dr. Shamsh Kassim Lakha, Founding President of Aga Khan University and Former Federal Minister of Pakistan said we all South East Asian Nations have common culture. Let us strengthen our ties through culture, education, group exchange programmes, people to people interaction. These should happen in the areas of Education, Science, Technology and Culture, he said. God created diversity, but, our cultures are same and similar. I feel at home in Hyderabad, he said.

Also speaking on the sidelines of the conference another Pakistani speaker Dr. Ishrat Hussain, Dean and Director Institute of Business Administration, Karachi said, let us concentrate more on practical things than speaking in air. We have forged a relationship with local educational centre Indian Business School (IBS) at Hyderabad. We entered a MoU for educational exchange programmes. We send our students here and we take local students to Pakistan. We are looking at Research and Case Studies for Collaboration with local educational institutions. We have also forged a tie-up, a MoU with another institute at Mumbai, S.P. Jain Institute where we would like to run a course on Family Run Businesses he said.

Bringing Sanity to Sanitation

rotarty-south-asia-summit-4Rotary International specially requested Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of Sulabh International, to throw light on the sanitation scenario in the country and explain, how best mutual efforts of Sulabh International and Rotary can be effective in providing safe sanitation to the country and beyond.

Giving his presentation on ‘Bringing Sanity to Sanitation’, Dr. Pathak talked about the four pillars of Sulabh – “Vision, Mission, Commitment and Capabilities”. He said efficiency coupled with honesty, integrity, ethics and morality are the other pillars on which Sulabh Sanitation Movement stands making a difference in the sanitation scenario globally and restoring human rights and dignity of the untouchable.

Dr. Pathak said, Sulabh International is a non-profit voluntary social organisation founded in 1970. It is dedicated to Gandhian ideology of emancipation of scavengers. Sulabh is noted for achieving success in the field of cost-effective sanitation, liberation of scavengers, social transformation of society, prevention of environmental pollution and development of nonconventional sources of energy.

rotarty-south-asia-summit-5Lauding Dr. Pathak’s achievements in the sanitation field, several speakers said Dr. Pathak is an internationally acclaimed expert on sanitation and has developed and implemented on pan-Indian scale a low-cost and appropriate toilet technology (popularly known as the Sulabh Shauchalaya System) recommended as a Global Best Practice.

Women’s Empowerment

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The Congress Party spokesperson and Rajya Sabha Member, Ms. Renuka Choudhary, while speaking at a session on Women’s empowerment organized as part of the event, said “women are not just homemakers; they are nation builders because they raise the children, the future of India. They are the care givers for the older lot and path breakers for the younger lot”.

Without making any bones about it, the Congress leader said for social transformation to happen the game changers have to be men and not women, as in the case of social evil ‘Sati’, so also men should come forward. She listed out various government initiatives viz. Right to Education, Women’s Bank, etc. Andhra Pradesh has outstanding record for microcredit for women, she pointed out. Microfinance has given access of credit to women and improved their lives. They now have better choices, better nutrition; they have a say in the decisions on family matters, she added.

Bangladesh’s Ms. Geeteara Safiya Choudhury, former advisor to Government and Chairman, Adcom Ltd., spoke on the subject in the context of Bangladesh. She said that in her country with a population of 160 million 50% are men and one cannot leave the other 50% lagging behind in progress. We definitely have to empower them. Bangladesh is going through considerable changes and Bangladeshi women have come a long way in establishing their rights. With emphasis on educating and empowering women, more than 75% of women in the age group of 11-15 years are attending school now, she said. Readymade garment sectors also contributed significantly to women empowerment and women workers are the lifeline in this sector. She said the Bangladesh government introduced jobs reserved for women only. Today women are challenging social and religious prejudices and are now working in various professions such as Police Department, etc. Bangladesh became the first Muslim-majority nation to send a unit of female police officers for UN peacekeeping mission, she added.

‘Rising Star’

Ms. Geeteara said in Bangladesh, the Prime Minister, Opposition leader, deputy leader of the House, foreign minister, agriculture minister, telecom minister and women affairs minister are all women. Bangladesh Parliament has 45 seats reserved for women out of 345. And in the 2010 Upazila (sub-district) elections out of 500 positions of vice-chairpersons 481 elected were women. Out of 95 Supreme Court judges seven are women. In the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Bangladesh is a ‘rising star’ in women’s empowerment. “And we will continue our march forward towards an even brighter future”, she said amidst excited clapping from the audience.

rotarty-south-asia-summit-7The Plenary Session-4 on Water and Sanitation was chaired by PRID Sushil Gupta. Ms. Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy India, spoke on ‘Water Wars’. She suggested that water and sanitation should have separate identity instead of being treated as one. Senior Director, BRAC Dr. Babar Kabir talked on ‘Water Woes’. On behalf of Rotary India Water Conservation Trust Mr. Sushil Gupta gave his presentation on ‘Reaping the Harvest of Rain’.

Apart from the exchange of experiences, thoughts and ideas among the speakers, panellists and experts on the core focus areas of the summit i.e. Education, Healthcare, Water and Sanitation and Women’s Empowerment, the summit was interspersed with interesting entertainment programmes by various artists such as Symphony by Maestro Bikram Ghosh; Musical evening by Dhwani; Inspirational songs by BLACK, a visually challenged musical orchestra; Musical soiree by Shaan; etc. Some of the well known names of the domain of music, Mrs. Usha Uthup, tabla maestro Mr. Bikram Ghosh performed exceedingly well. Usha Uthup enthralled the gathering singing her popular songs in various languages such as Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Assamese, Marathi, Punjabi, etc. Some of the songs she belted out included Sara jahan aha nache nache, Dama dam mast kalandar, Lal meri pat Rakhyo sada jhoolay lalan, Chinta ta chita chita, etc.

In a unique gesture, instead of giving mementoes to the Rotary

rotarty-south-asia-summit-8Dignitaries, VIPs, etc. who had come to attend the Summit, Rotary pledged to donate school benches, sewing machines etc. and offer free heart surgeries on their behalf to patients. All the incoming Rotary District Governors together pledged to adopt 100 schools all over South Asia and make them model schools. Rotary is also to construct 10,000 toilets in rural areas and conduct an additional 1,000 free heart surgeries. Ten new eye hospitals and 50 vocational centres will be set up in the coming year, announced Shekhar Mehta, Convenor of the Summit.