The Talwada Project
The model Indian Tribal area
In 1971, the Rotary Club of Bombay adopted a tribal area, consisting of 10 villages, and 25,000 tribes, along the national highway. Though, less than 100 miles from Bombay, this area did not have access to even rudimentary healthcare, had patch electricity and other essential services. The initial plan was to only hold ‘health camps’, due to the distance, but a decision was taken to build a permanent eye centre, on a plot of 5000 sq.ft of land, which was named as the “Hasanali Tobaccowala Eye Centre”.
The Centre very quickly established itself as the hub of ophthalmologic services for a distance of more than 100 miles around it, and the mandate for providing comprehensive health services grew. Thus, in 1996, the Club established the “Ajit Deshpande Medical Centre”, which functioned as a primary health centre, with a focus on general health, tuberculosis, paediatrics, dentistry, and diagnostic services in pathology and radiology.
Together, the Rotary Club of Bombay medical centres have provided medical aid to more than 1.5 million local villagers, most of whom are tribals. This has been achieved with a cumulative spend of approximately 1.5 million dollars, giving an extremely cost effective ratio of a dollar per person, for advanced health care.
Over the course of 36 years, there have been close to 36,000 cataract and other eye surgeries. On a similar line to the Rotary International pledge of making a “Polio Free World”, the Rotary Club of Bombay has proudly announced, in the year 2000, the Talwada district as a “Cataract Free Zone”. These surgeries have been done at an approximate cost of $100 per surgery, as opposed to an average cost of $2,500 in the US (source: American Academy of Ophthalmology).
Tuberculosis, which is one of the leading causes of death in India, has been the focus of both prevention and treatment efforts at Talwada. Patients are not only given free medication, they are tracked for treatment compliance, to the extent of offering transportation and food, for those who are unable to attend the clinic, without this support. The goal is to screen every person in the area for TB and provide treatment to those who have it. Similar efforts are being put in for pediatric and dental care.
In keeping with the club’s aim of holistic development of Talwada, in the year 2008, the Club built a junior college, the “Smt. Anusuya Devi Taparia Junior College for Arts and Science” Today, more than 240 girls and boys are enrolled in this College having free education, and lodging and boarding facilities. In the year 2010, the Club installed solar power panels at all the facilities which came under the Club’s purview.
The ‘Talwada Project’, which started with the simple aim of providing basic healthcare, has blossomed into a fullfledged rural transformation project, with an aim of converting it into a ‘smart city’, with upgraded sanitation, electricity and infrastructure. More importantly, it has enthused members of the Club, with several committees, including health, environment, women’s empowerment, among others contributing to the success of the project and participating in it. Close to 200 of the Club members have been involved in making the dream of a model village come true, and continue to work at making it a template for future rural projects.