Nagrik Dialogue

A Shot Of Hope

Ashok Mahajan
Rotary India’s Covid Task Force
Past Director Rotary International
Past Trustee, The Rotary Foundation
Former member of Rotary’s International Polio plus Committee and advisor to India National Polio Plus Committee of Rotary .

Rotary has entered a new era of responsibility. I am addressing as the Chairman of the Rotary India Task Force set up to assist the Government in the Covid 19 vaccination drive.

I am humbled by the task before me. I am grateful for the trust senior Rotary Leaders in India have bestowed and mindful of the sacrifices you have done during our joint fight against polio, hunger, ill-literacy and many other such tasks which we were asked to face.

What you know about this pandemic matters, but who we are and what we intend to do to serve the community during this time matters more.

We have been living in isolation for many months because of this disease. But now is the time to reconnect with the community.

Today, we are able to celebrate the success achieved by our scientists in producing vaccines that promises to eradicate Covid 19.

They have worked not for themselves, but for the cause of humanity. The need of the people has been heard and the need of the people has been heeded.

We, as Rotarians, must look ahead in our uniquely Rotary way – restless, bold, optimistic and set our sights on fighting Covid 19 like how we did against Polio.

The success of polio eradication story depended not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us.

Over the past one hundred years we have fought for the welfare of humanity on many fronts, did many projects that showed that Rotary Cares, Rotary shares , Rotary Rotary looks beyond itself snd Rotary serves to change lives , but today, this pandemic has shown that we still have far to go. We have to press forward with speed and urgency since the vaccine roll out programme has entered a crucial phase.

Now, there may be some who question the scale of our ambition in eradicating Covid 19.

Some may even think that our movement and system cannot handle too many big plans all at once.

Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what Rotary has done in eradicating polio from the world.

We, as Rotarians, have shown what free men and women can achieve, when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

The question we ask today is not whether our Rotary movement is big or too small, but whether it works. The answer is yes.

When The Rotary Foundation was formed, we tackled many community based problems, not just with funds but sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

We know that our patchwork heritage made up of people from many nations is a strength, not a weakness.

Few years in our Rotary’s history have been difficult or challenging than one we are in now.

The virus which stalked the world silently has taken a tremendous toll. It has taken the lives of many of our friends and relatives in just one year, probably more than what we lost over 5 or 6 years.

A cry for survival came from every corner of the globe. A cry that cannot be more desperate or any more clear.

It is now up to us, the Rotarians, to help the Governments and other agencies to confront the disease and defeat it.

But to overcome these challenges, to restore the confidence of people that they can eradicate Covid 19 and to secure their future, more action is required than words.

It requires that all of us, all Rotarians in every district of this country, to unite and to take a step forward- forward literally outside their homes.

This is one more challenge we will have to face and we must face it. I ask every Rotarian to join us in this cause.

We have to reinforce the confidence about the vaccine with those who may be skeptical about its efficacy or have misinformed doubts about its effects.

We can deliver this confidence. We know that the resistance may emerge from certain segments of the society.

We also know that this is not new. We faced it during the NIDs when we went door to door for getting the children vaccinated against polio.

The battle will have to be fought and victory is assured. During the campaign to bring the dissident groups into the fold of polio vaccination, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.

But for this campaign against Covid 19 all of us should come together. Just look around. In our fight against polio we endured and we prevailed.

Every year, District Governors, office bearers of over 4,000 Rotary Clubs in India and everyone of the 1,53, 000 Rotarians in this country take an oath to serve the community.

The oath was taken during the rising tides of prosperity and still waters of peace. But in July 2020, the oath was taken amidst gathering clouds of Covid 19, raging storms about fear of life, losing jobs, uncertainty of the future and being locked down in your place.

At this time, Rotary has carried on, not simply because of the skill or vision of the leaders of the movement in various levels, but because of you, the Rotarians, who have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding principle of Service Above Self. So it has been and so it must be with this generation of Rotarians.

That we are in the midst of a crisis is well understood. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But as I know the Rotarians: They will be met.

As the Covid 19 vaccination campaign continues with varying degrees of enthusiasm in the country, in the second phase of the drive when vaccination is opened for those over 50 years of age, I call upon Rotarians and their family members to get the jab.

Optics of Rotarians sporting the Rotary Logo in their T-Shirts, Caps, Aprons and clothing could go a long way in addressing the concerns of vaccine skeptics.

The targets fixed by the Government is not being achieved and several reasons are being attributed to the slow off take with software glitches, adverse events and uncertainty over the efficacy of the vaccine being among the many reasons.

There have been no reports of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) attributable to vaccination till today.

Government of India has said that an enhancement of Co-WIN software has been introduced to cater to the creation of more session sites, more sessions per site and change in site location.

Government is planning and scheduling sessions for entire week and is drawing up plans for the enhanced safety of the beneficiaries and tagging of contraindications.

The Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign of the Government is commendable and will probably need the assistance of voluntary organisations and service organisations including Rotary to take the message to every nook and corner of India.

When called upon by the Government, our advocacy efforts will have to be focused on countering a handful of vested interests who are interested in spreading rumours and encouraging vaccine hesitancy among those vulnerable to such propaganda in the population.

Countries across the globe are asking India for access to vaccines we should remove the misinformation among certain sections of the community in our own country.

It will be necessary for all the Rotary India Task Force Members and Rotary volunteers to keep themselves fully informed about every detail published by the Government and this will help us to assist the public and the Government in the massive vaccination drive.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward the noble idea that we stand for Service Above Self and this has been passed on from generation to generation over the past 116 years of Rotary.

As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we must pledge to work alongside the valiant health workers and other Government agencies and eradicate Covid 19.

In reaffirming the greatness of our Rotary movement, we must understand that greatness is never given. It must be earned.

Our journey in Rotary has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It is not a path for the faint-hearted or for those who prefer leisure over work or seek only the pleasures of awards and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often Rotarians – men and women obscure in their labour — who have carried us up the long rugged path towards greatness.

This is the journey we must continue today in our mission to end Covid 19 from the world. Look everywhere. There is work to be done in taking healthcare to those who need it most.

The state of the world today calls for action, bold and swift. And we must act, we must contribute to this cause and lay a new foundation for growth.

We will continue to strive to eliminate polio from the world, eradicate hunger from the world, end Covid 19, destroy ill-literacy, restore healthcare facilities at every village and meet the demands of the new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

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Nagrik Dialogue is the face of Nagrik Foundation’s communication skills that comes in the form of a monthly magazine. It will work as a bridge for those working at the grass roots level and those who support them in any form and manner.