Like all great ideas, this one too is simple: in almost
every middle class home there is more than one pair of spectacles, lying
abandoned -unused or unusable. Why not collect these and redistribute them
among people whom it might serve, people who are too poor to afford a
pair? That is what Singhvi Charitable Trust has been doing for several
years now. So far they have collected 10,000 pairs of which nearly 50% may
be fit only to be thrown away. But, of the remaining they have
given away 2000 to needy users, after scientifically matching them.
This is but a part of what Mr. N. Sugalchand Jain is
into. Since 1980 this successful businessman, has been the architect of
many schemes. A man into his sixties, he has left the reins of business to
his sons and now devotes himself, as ancient wisdom prescribes,
wholly to his community projects.
In a quiet lane.
His interests are primarily in education, health and
animal welfare; the last not surprising , because he is a passionate
votary of vegetarianism. From a quiet lane in Triplicane, an old world
section of Chennai, he runs his Trust. In the basement are eye testing
facilities to which school children are regularly brought for screening.
Those that need glasses are so advised, and if they cannot afford a pair,
a new one is given to them within two weeks. At the street-level floor is
a popular diagnostic centre with a full time doctor. Here for a fee as low
as Rs.5, patients' symptoms and complaints are investigated. There
are also facilities for some basic diagnostic tests.
On the floor above, sit Mr. Jain - and Mr. P V
Krishnamurthy, who retired as the principal Accountant General of Tamil
Nadu and now works with Jain in all the Trust's philanthropic activities.
"We run eye camps within a radius of 250km of
Chennai, where folks are screened and given glasses, if necessary",
says Krishnamurthy. " If serious ailments are noticed the cases are
escorted to Shankara Nethralaya, the internationally renowned eye hospital
in Chennai." A related Trust runs a higher secondary school.
1994 was a watershed year for the Singhvi Charitable
"We found", Krishnamurthy goes on. "that
we can on our own, reach only so many, even if there was all the money at
our disposal. Good work needs people more than money. So we decided to
seek people doing laudable work and support them with funds. That is the
objective of Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation, established in 1994."
The Foundation practices the proven American
methods: Nominations are received from people who are personally
acquainted with the activity they sponsor. The Trust at its own cost
physically verifies the project or person. Summaries are then prepared for
the jury, made up of impartial, public figures like Mr. C Subramaniam,
Mrs. Usha Mehta, Mr. Justice Venkatachaliah, Dr L M Singhvi and Mr. Suresh
Krishna. The Trustees' role is but to organise and provide- no more! The
prizes aren't modest either; each of the three awards is worth
Rs.500,000/- Every year for the past 5 years the Foundation has been
organising a high profile Awards day, inviting a respected public
person to honour the awardees.
Krishnamurthy this year has traveled thousands of
kilometers by air, road and rail to visit places as far apart as Agartala
and Jaipur. His mission was to personally verify the short-listed
projects. He declares his experience, as uplifting. "In Bihar's
bad-lands there are nursing nuns from Kerala catering for the abandoned.
In Tripura, 75 year old Anurupa Mukherjee [who incidentally, is a winner
this year] is opening new worlds of promise for tribal girls. Deep in a
jungle in central India, I found a young doctor couple catering to leprosy
patients and also now and then treating a bear attack victim! I found
there are thousands of people doing the good work that needs to be
Perhaps India has much to be optimistic about. After all
the good work does get done and does receive support.
A 100 years ago.
Here is a life stream:
At the turn of the 19th century, overland trade via north-west
India was overwhelmed by maritime trade. Many traders along the caravan
routes in Rajasthan began to look for new businesses. Itinerant wanderers
spread across the land, looking for new places to settle. All they had
were, a tiny capital, a sharp acumen and a lot of courage. Several settled
in Chennai, then known as Madras and began the safest business they knew -
pawn-broking. Several succeeded monetarily and adhered to traditional
Indian value-bundle of religion, family and community.
Many men bequeathed these values to succeeding
generations. Business prospered and branched into several areas as
With gathering wealth, the mind turned to public good.
Sugalchand Jain is such a third generation man.
Exceptional though his work is, he is no exception. In
India an increasing number, share his convictions and commitment.
Surely, a brighter time awaits this land?
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