By Lachman Balani
TORONTO: Better known as themedia mogul of India, Zee TV Group founder Dr Subhash Chandra who was in Toronto this week, showed his princely side as a philanthropist at an event at the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation Hal on April 23.
Besides being the founder and head honcho of Zee Group, Dr.Subhash Chandra is also now the chair for a non-profit organization called Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation that is involved in the education and village development in rural areas and tribal villages of India.
It is the largest grassroots, non-government education initiative in India providing free education to more than 1.5 million children. The foundation’s model of operation is single-teacher schools, with the premise of “Ek Shikshak, Ek Vidyalaya” meaning “one teacher, one school”.
The event was hosted by Swati Gupta and Subhash Chander, secretary of the Ekal chapter here in Canada. The afternoon started with the president of Ekal Vidyalaya Canada, Mr P.L. Gupta, giving a short speech and leading the customary chants of OM as all the attendees joined in.
Following a few variety programmes, the singing of both the Indian and Canadian national anthems and speeches by Indra Wadehra from Ekal Vidyalaya Windsor, Ramesh Shah from Ekal Vidyalaya US, Consul and Head of Chancery Rajesh Raina, MPP Deepika Damerla and MP Deepak Obhrai, Dr Subhash Chandra came on stage to address the enthusiastic patrons.
He greeted the crowd with namaste and went on to deliver a very inspiring speech telling us how when he first went to an Ekal function about two decades ago, “ there were only a few hundred schools; today the foundation boasts 52,000 to 53,000 schools in the tribal belts and remote areas of India.
“We have a model of one school and one teacher per village. Children come to class for 3 hours where for half the time they are taught the basics of reading, writing, mathematics and general knowledge. The other half is dedicated to culture and value building and a belief in oneself. This sort of teaching helps bring back pride to India and to teach one to be self-sufficient rather than rely on subsidies from the government.”
He recounted also that due to subsidies in certain states, the men in rural areas tend to sit back and drink alcohol all day and abuse their wives and children. In the years to come these grassroots schools in the tribal belts and innards of India, lead by private donations and volunteers rather than government, will help reduce such scenarios.
An anecdote regarding how government under PM Modi is seemingly less corrupt, he commented: “The Delhi Golf club three years ago would be packed by 8.30-9 am, filled with government officials having breakfast and then going to play golf…they would go back to their offices after lunch, work on an urgent file, stay at work late into the night and order dinner from 5 star hotels for both themselves and the family and bill the government for the same.” Nowadays the golf club is empty and the officials do not stay behind to work. Everything must be dealt with right away and no free breakfasts, no free lunches nor free dinners.
He ended his speech by telling the audience that he finds that Indians overseas “are more Bharatians than we in Bharat”, which prompted great applause.
The wonderful afternoon ended with Dr Subhash Chandra manifesting his magnanimity and altruistic nature by donating the prize money of $50,000 he had received the night before at the glamourous CIF Chanchlani Global Indian Award ceremony to the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of Canada.