India's giving to Rotary Foundation rises dramatically
From top to bottom, Harshad R. and Naina Mehta; Rajashree Birla, photo by Monika Lee/RI Images
; Lakshmi and Usha Mittal.
From large-scale community development projects to polio eradication, Indian Rotarians are improving people's lives on a broad front through their support for The Rotary Foundation.
"It's thrilling to see how our Rotary clubs, in partnership with the Foundation, are building a new India," says Past District Governor Krishnan Chari. "We have seen a dramatic rise in contributions to the Foundation from the Rotarians in India."
In the past three years, India has moved from ninth to fourth in per country total giving to the Foundation worldwide. In 2004, Harshad R. Mehta, of the Rotary Club of Bombay Metropolitan, and his wife, Naina, became charter members of the Arch C. Klumph Society. Named after the founder of The Rotary Foundation, the society honors Major Donors who contribute US$250,000 or more. In 2006, the Mehtas made a $1 million gift to the Foundation, the first donors from their country to surpass that milestone of support. In December, they committed to giving $2 million over the next three years to Rotary's US$100 Million Challenge for polio eradication.
Harshad Mehta is chair of the United Arab Emirates operations of Rosy Blue, a family-owned international jewelry business. He believes strongly in giving back locally and in the global community. Of the push to end polio, he says, "We must further strengthen our resolve, as we are so close to the ultimate goal."
Fellow Indian Rajashree Birla has contributed $300,000 to endow an Ambassadorial Scholarship and support the Annual Programs Fund. During her April induction into the Klumph Society at RI headquarters in Evanston, she made a surprise announcement of an additional $1 million commitment to Rotary's challenge.
Birla's late husband, Aditya Birla, led his family's business to become one of India's largest. Today, the couple's son, Kumar Mangalam Birla, heads the Aditya Birla Group (ABG), a Fortune 500 company with 40 plants employing 100,000 workers in 20 countries. Integral to the group's philosophy is accountability to shareholders, employees, and the local community. An honorary member of the Mumbai and Mulund Rotary clubs, Birla feels a strong kinship with Rotary and its commitment to community service.
"Rotarians symbolize a culture of giving and caring which is strikingly close to our group's philosophy," Birla says.
In May, Birla arranged a brief meeting on polio eradication with Usha Mittal, wife of Lakshmi Mittal, the prominent businessman who leads ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel maker. At Birla's encouragement, Mrs. Mittal generously responded with a $1 million contribution to the challenge.
"It was remarkable to see the respect that Mrs. Birla received and amazing to have the time, attention, and interest that Mrs. Mittal expressed toward [Foundation PolioPlus Division manager] Carol Pandak's and my presentation on Rotary's polio eradication program," says Past RI President Rajendra Saboo. "What makes the contribution very significant is not only the generous monetary contribution she committed spontaneously, but her desire to participate in polio immunization camps in India."