Indian philanthropist commits another US$1 million for Rotary’s polio eradication efforts
Rajashree Birla address the 2012 RI Convention
R ajashree Birla, of the Aditya Birla Group, has committed an additional US$1 million to The Rotary Foundation for polio eradication efforts.
Birla, of Mumbai, announced the donation on 8 May at the Arch C. Klumph Society dinner during the 2012 RI Convention in Bangkok, Thailand. Birla’s contributions to the Foundation’s campaign to eradicate polio, including this commitment, total more than $6.2 million.
Birla’s late husband, Aditya, made the Aditya Birla Group into a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest in India. Today, her son, Kumar Mangalam, is chairman of the board, and she serves as a director.
“Mrs. Birla’s presence at the convention, not just for her program segment but all four days, showed the regard she has for Rotary. She is magnanimity, dignity, compassion, humility and tranquility personified,” said RI President Kalyan Banerjee. “It is not just the additional one million dollars she gave for Polio eradication but the grace and absolute commitment she reflects we admire and respect her for.”
Past RI President Rajendra K. Saboo added that Birla's actions are the embodiment of goodness. “She is not just a generous philanthropist but seeks financial support from others and hands-on serves to get the drops in the mouths of children,” Saboo said. “That is what makes her a 'Hero of Humanity.’ ”
“Aditya Birla was one of India’s foremost industrialists and an active philanthropist,” said Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair William B. Boyd in introducing Rajashree Birla at the convention. “His widow has continued this work through the family’s foundation, introducing education and health care initiatives that improve the lives of underserved populations in rural India. The Birla family is a staunch supporter of the End Polio Now campaign and has contributed generously to [Rotary’s] US$200 Million Challenge fund.”
Birla’s contribution to the Foundation comes during India’s breakthrough year in its fight to be polio-free. The World Health Organization (WHO) removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries in February, after the country hadn’t reported a case of polio since January 2011. To be certified polio-free, India must go until February 2014 without another case of the disease. Continued support is needed to ensure that India and other countries remain polio-free and to stop transmission of the disease in the three remaining polio-endemic countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Birla, addressing the convention on 7 May, said, “Based on the success of Rotary International’s initiatives in India — coupled, of course, with the admirable backing of the government’s health departments and institutions like WHO, UNICEF , CDC , and the Gates Foundation — the day is not far off for us to envisage the elimination of polio in the other three countries where unfortunately its traces remain.”
She added, “We owe it to ourselves and to humanity at large to ensure that in these three countries as well, polio becomes an affliction of the past.”
An honorary member of the Rotary clubs of Bombay and Mulund, Birla also stressed the need for business accountability and community service. Her Giving to Living campaign encourages corporations to “embed giving into their DNA.”
“When a corporation pushes its energies and helps resolve social sector issues through its engagement, it indirectly stimulates its own business development,” Birla said. “There is much to be gained when business leaders take giving to heart, and set the mandate of making a difference by caring for people in their community.”
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