By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | March 12, 2018
Everyone stood for the #PadmanChallenge with stars (male and female) and parents and friends of actors going to Chemists to display the pad, or posting a selfie on Social Media. The movie is now released and after an average performance, the stars went back to their daily routine, the day the movie released, forgetting about the pad. Another movie will come up and they will soon be busy promoting it in the hope that the favour will be returned when their release comes up.
In Mumbai, we have the Rotiman who took centre stage last December, much before the movie Padman began stirring up ‘doctored mass hysteria’ within Bollywood. Sadly, no one has stood up for him or promoted his ‘noble venture’. Point this out to D Sivanandhan, former C.P Mumbai and D G Maharashtra, who started the Roti Bank in December, 2017 and he laughs it off giving credit where it is due. “I’m not the Rotiman,” he says. “This is an offshoot of the knowledge I gained from the South from a man called Padmanabhan who is doing the same thing.”
Sivanandhan, who is interested in looking after the street children, is of the opinion that Vidya Balan would make a good brand ambassador going forward. “I would be happy if I can get her to agree,” he says.
Apart from the Roti Bank, he is also offering a service for those who want to donate fresh food to the needy. “I was impressed by a scheme where one can donate an amount and fresh food can be served to the needy. I have tied up with a caterer where, for Rs 45 per person, freshly cooked meal can be given to the needy. They are served in biodegradable paper plates. Sometimes people who donate themselves come and distribute it to the people.”
Opening Doorz met up with Mumbai’s former Sherlock Holmes (Joint director CBI, West Zone, under whom extortion threats came down drastically) for a tête-à-tête at his India Bulls office in Lower Parel.
After you retired, what have you been keeping yourself busy with?
After retirement I decided that I would not do any work with the government. I did not want any stress. However, at the same time I wanted to keep myself busy from 10am to 5pm. So I started a consultancy called Securus First, where we investigate cybercrime among many other things. I am also associated with 15 NGOs, mostly related to health and education. I am also an independent director in various companies.
What is the profile of all these NGOs you are associated with?
For example there is the Aditya Jyot Foundation. It’s a foundation that provides free eye-care to lakhs of school students who cannot afford it. I became the Chairman and started building free eye clinics in Dharavi, Kandivili, Mulund, Mankhurd etc. I then resigned as chairman to be their mentor so that there would be no conflict of interest with the corporates I am involved with. Apart from the Municipal school children, slum dwellers and other poor people have also benefitted. We even perform free cataract operations.
Tell us something about the Roti Bank which you started recently…
On December 23, 2017, I started Roti Bank. This is an offshoot of the knowledge I gained from the South from a man called Padmanabhan who is doing the same thing. His is an organization which ensures that no food is wasted. There are places in the South where he runs his own Roti Bank. I spoke to him over the phone and we got the entire SOP. Since he has already started, he was in a better position to give us the guidance.
How successful has the Roti Bank been so far?
You should see the success or a failure of a project only after a thousand days (three years). I have only done three months and we have been delivering food to around 400 people every day, right from day one.
Which areas in Mumbai are you concentrating on right now?
We are concentrating on Tata Memorial Hospital, Byculla, some Shelter Homes and orphanages etc. Outside Tata Memorial Hospital there are around 250-300 people like you and me because their loved ones are inside. My vision is to have 4-5 vehicles covering Mumbai in the near future.
And you have the finances for the same?
Right now I don’t even have an office space, but I have to say that help is pouring like monsoon rain. Three people have come forward to donate vehicles. But I have asked them to wait since I want to streamline and first register the NGO. The minute that is done, I will take the vehicle in the NGOs name. Right now we ensure that the food is delivered within the hour it is collected so that it stays fresh. When I get the vehicles, they will be strategically placed at different locations, for a wider area to be covered.
Have people from other areas asked you for a similar help?
I am very grateful to Mumbai Mirror for mentioning about my venture. The day it was published I started getting calls from all over the country, some offering help, others asking for help. My friends from Nagpur asked me to do the same for them there. My idea is to first establish it in Mumbai then go to Vasai and Virar etc, then Vashi and various other places and then stretch to Pune and Nagpur. I want to cover Maharashtra first. In my opinion, if it is taken in the right enthusiasm and spirit, it will be a doing fantastic service within 1000 days.
You also helped build a school in Thane when you were the Commissioner. How is it doing today?
I put the entire process in place and it is being run privately. The school (built on 70,000 sq ft.) school comes at a subsided cost for children of the police force. It’s a state-of-the-art school and around 3,000 children belonging to the police force now getting only first class and distinction. Within this complex, there is also a Hospital which was built at a cost of Rs 5.5 cr, a Stadium for sports, two training centres, ATMs, a Police Café as well as a Police Housing Colony.
And what was the trigger for doing this?
Unless you build the force and take care of them in all their needs of health and education, you cannot expect them to do the supreme sacrifice and give their life. This is what motivated me. Apart from this, during my short tenure as a Police Commissioner in Mumbai, I had 43,000 women and men from the police force examined from head to toe and their health cards were given to them with a book printed in Marathi on how to live a healthy and happy life. Various aspects were covered in the book from diet, to exercise to eating habits. Twenty-five state-of-the-art gyms were also built in police stations. Sadly, not many took advantage of this.
Any particular reason for this, not making use of the gym? Or were the work hours gruelling?
I had issued an order that they should use the facilities during the work hours. So there was no excuse there. You can’t be a Hitler forcing them to exercise. They have to be enlightened. You can’t force someone to be healthy. Don’t they see people who are healthy? “Time nahi hain,” is the excuse that they used to give me. This is the worst excuse I have heard!
Finally, coming back the Roti Bank, do you have people who work for you?
As of now, I have hired one vehicle. The Dabbawallas are also our associates. I pay Rs 15,000 for a driver, I have helpers too.
And what would be the running cost per month?
I would need around Rs 1.5 lakhs a month to keep five vehicles running. People are asking me which vehicle I want. I have told them that I have a Maruti EECO and they are willing to convert it to CNG. Operational cost will be controlled if it is a CNG vehicle. People have been very good.