Millennium Post

‘Rotary expects India to become fully literate by 2017’

Till a few years ago, polio was not uncommon in India. But there has not been a single case of polio in the last three years, and India will be declared polio-free in March 2014. Rotary International, the service organisation working for humanitarian causes, has also contributed in large measure to this achievement. Gary Huang, the president-elect of Rotary International, was particularly impressed with India’s achievement in polio eradication when he visited the country in December. Since getting elected as president in 2013, Huang has been visiting several countries to take stock of Rotary’s work and chart the future agenda. In India, the organisation is going to focus on the literacy mission in a big way.

You have come to India at a time when India has been successful in curbing polio for three consecutive years and is about to be declared polio-free. Rotary, too, has contributed to this journey. How do you feel about this achievement, and what next?
India is one of the growing economies of the world. It has also seen a strong growth of Rotary clubs structure. In the last few years, the country has been in an overdrive in the polio eradication programme, reducing the incidence of polio to zero now. This was achieved with active involvement of all players, with Rotary India playing a key role – not only in India but worldwide.

Tell us more about Rotary’s activities.
The first project of Rotary International is to end polio incidence around the world. The target is to completely eradicate polio by the end of 2018. We are happy that India doesn’t have a polio case for three years. By March 2014, the Unicef and WHO will announce India as polio-free (since it has no polio cases for three years). It is a dream come true for India. We are also here to find out what else we can do to maintain India’s record as a polio-free country. We have been campaigning for global polio eradication for the last 25 years. From 1,979 polio cases worldwide in 2005 to just 223 cases in 2013, our most ambitious project has borne fruits. That doesn’t mean we have finished our job. We have decided to continue with the immunisation programme wholeheartedly.

What are the gains from India?
India was always regarded as the most difficult place to end polio. But the country has a great success story to tell the world. I will share the India story with other countries too. Then we can give more support for the last battle.

India may not be out of danger, as Pakistan and Afghanistan are still battling to eradicate polio.
We expect that we will be able to complete the polio eradication programme in the three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – where it is still a problem by 2018. We are assisting governments in those countries. That’s why we are raising more funds; we still need to pay attention and watch closely.

There have been cases reported of some clerics in Pakistan campaigning against polio vaccine. Have you spoken with them?
There is good news from Pakistan. The Pakistan president had assured us that they won’t be last in eradicating polio. If a top leader makes such strong statements, it will definitely help. Now even clerics have realised the importance of administering polio drops.

What next for India? Are you planning another ambitious campaign here?
We are supporting the literacy campaign in the country. Through Rotary Foundation, we are supporting many schools to get a computer, proper lighting, tables and chairs. As India grows, Rotary India has an ambitious programme of aiding the literacy mission in the country. We are now putting in a lot of effort towards literacy – it is not only literacy but better education for everyone by providing good infrastructure in schools.

Is there a target year for this?
By 2017, Rotary expects India to become fully literate.

You are from Taiwan and will take over as president of Rotary International on 1 July 2014. How does China view this?

I am very glad to say that I will be the first Taiwanese-Chinese to serve this chair. I grew up in Taiwan. As an organisation we don’t talk about politics; we are a service organisation and try to help the needy.

China recognises Rotary’s service work and they do want Rotary International to work in China. We have two clubs in China – in Beijing and in Shanghai.
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