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Marwar Debates

Ajay Poddar
Managing Director, Syenergy Environics

Marwaris have been doing a fair bit of philanthropy in Rajasthan only for the past 15-20 years, having opted to better the lives of the people in their city of residence or business first. I think my family, for one, has given back to society and not just the homeland or community.
My family resides in New Delhi and operates the Manidevi Poddar Trust, named after my grandmother. We have collaborated with the Rajasthan government to plant 1.5 lakh trees in the parched state and are in the process of planting 50,000 more. We own a haveli at Ramgarh in Shekhawati and we had it renovated and converted into a dharamshala 15 years ago. We have also initiated an empowerment programme for the women of Ramgarh by giving sewing machines to over a hundred women and providing them vocational training.

2Ranjit Singh Kothari
Managing Director, Kothari Metals Limited
I was born in 1950 in Tamkor, in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, and my father migrated to Kolkata when I was eight years old. In spite of this, I have never been disconnected from my roots. We visit Tamkor at least once or twice a year. I had a pukka road made in front of my ancestral home and had street lights put up at several places in the village. I felt that there was a need for English-medium schools in Tamkor, and I personally pitched in majority of the funds for setting up The Mahapragya International School in Tamkor. I have served as the chairman of the managing committee of the school (which has 600 students) ever since. The teachers are provided boarding, lodging and transport. Though based in Kolkata, I am constantly in touch with the managing staff of the school, and oversee key decisions.

 

3Sumermal Surana
Advocate, Surana Company

I was born in Sujangarh, a town in Rajasthan. When I was two months old, my father passed away. I worked hard and in 1967 enrolled to become an advocate worth his salt.
Presently the president of the Income Tax Bar Association Calcutta and the vice-president of Tax Advocates Association of Bengal, I also have my own law firm. I realise the difficulties children face in pursuing their education after a parent has passed away, or if their parents are unable to support them. I started the Surana Foundation around 10 years ago, in order to adopt underprivileged children from Sujangarh and its neighbouring areas for education. We provide them lodging and pay their school fees; and if students want to study further after completing their higher secondary studies, we sponsor them. We have also set up a computer education centre.
I hope that these youth in turn will continue to foster a close connection with the natives of Sujangarh, even if they leave their town for employment.

4Archana Parasrampuria
Owner, Amarkosh Jewels

While I was brought up in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, my husband hails from Nawalgarh, Rajasthan. His family migrated from the town 40 years ago. The ancestral home still exists, and we have always gone back for celebrations of rites of passage and important rituals, such as the children’s first haircut. We have maintained a close relationship with our extended family there, as well as friends and associates whose families have been with us for generations. Even as children, we were taught by our elders that we should maintain age-old relationships; and if people, who are associated with us by way of business or in a social context, need help, we should not hesitate, even if it is for monetary support.
When the children of our associates venture out of town to metro cities for employment, we help them with jobs and accommodation until they can sustain themselves.
The Marwari community has always displayed an eagerness for philanthropy, and my paternal family too has believed in this, having established the Sahu Gopi Nath Girls Inter College in Bareilly.

5Rahul Muchhal
Owner, Accretion Aviation

Philanthropic activities are the best way to reconnect with your culturally-rich roots that make you who you are. However, charity is just a short-term relief, not a permanent solution. Rather, educating people on how to earn money for themselves is more of a help.
My family has always supported this thought and started a trust that initiated an Annakshetra programme more than 20 years ago in our native town Didwana, in the Nagaur district of Rajasthan. Under this programme, the trust has tried to do its bit for Brahmin students studying at the vidyalaya there, who are taught the rituals of performing pujas and chanting the Vedas. We give the students free boarding and lodging as long as they study in the school. Until 10 years ago, we used to provide them accommodation at our ancestral house in Didwana, but since the house was old and becoming increasingly unsafe, we had to shift the students to a hostel built by us. We oversee the day-to-day operations of the place.

6Sunil Agarwal
Director, Vinod Cookware
Over the generations, Marwaris have innovatively used their innate sense of entrepreneurship to become the prime example of successful Indian capitalism. With their wealth and financial clout, however, came responsibility—a responsibility to give back to the community and create opportunities for all to enjoy similar kind of wealth in their lives.
Keeping this thought in mind, I have set my company on the path of philanthropy in two areas: providing safe drinking water and better education facilities to those who need it. We have installed community pumps at several locations, especially villages, in my native place, Bhiwani, in Shekhawati, (now in Haryana) to provide safe drinking water.
Water sources are few in the rough terrain and the community pumps have benefited several families back home, thereby preventing acute water crisis. To provide children in the area access to excellent education, we have also adopted a few schools, combining education with skills training.

7Sangeeta Boochra
Director, Sangeeta Boochra (a brand of Silver Centrre)

I was born in Sujangarh, Rajasthan, and have spent the most cherished days of my childhood there. Later, my father moved to Guwahati, Assam, where he started an oil and petroleum distribution company.
At the age of 18, I was married into a respected family of Jaipur and moved back to my homeland. My father-in-law, Seth Lalit Kumar Boochra, recognised my passion for design and made me the creative director and designer of his silver unit. He also helped me launch my own jewellery label. Ever since, I would think of ways to give back to my roots and do something for Sujangarh and its neighbouring areas. I was very keen to help students achieve their dreams, since I was aware of the facilities I had missed out back then— facilities often not available to small town children in terms of education.
I have always put in a conscious effort to go back and support and encourage education by means of donations and scholarships. Believing that technology is critical to gaining the best of knowledge, I have also funded schools in the area for buying computers and laptops.

8Kushal Gopalka
Managing Director, National Dyechem Industries

My ancestors left Reengus, a town in Sikar district of Rajasthan, seven generations ago. My grandfather moved from Varanasi to Mumbai when my father was still in school, and I was born in Mumbai. Therefore, I’m the first-generation member of the family born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, and consider myself a Maharashtrian Marwari. Mumbai is home to me. However, my family and I have a deep connection with our native place, and I am proud to say that the umbilical cord is still intact. We visit Rajasthan every year and make a trip to our haveli in Reengus every 3-4 years. In the last 15 years, we have had two get-togethers, with 150 family members in attendance, from all over India and abroad. As such we have made no special efforts for philanthropy in Reengus, considering social work is done by people only in places where they are accorded recognition. Having left Reengus so long ago, even the eldest relative of my extended family doesn’t know very many people living there.

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