As a social activist
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- As a social activist
Lottery looks like a simple subject today but looking back on our campaign I realize we dealt with a formidable issue. On one hand, the private lottery organizations were earning Rs 10 crores by luring common people into bankruptcy, on another hand, the state governments were earning revenue from taxes. The matter of banning lotteries had been in the consideration of the Govt. of India for more than 30 years, but it continued taking no step against this social menace. Lotteries would drive people to sell their wives, kill their children and commit suicide. We decided to get it banned.
The first agitation began from the residence of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji, along with his blessings. What followed was a series of public seminars, pamphlets distribution, demonstrations, referendum and workshops to sensitize people about the evils of lotteries. Experts and political leaders were asked to strengthen the campaign and spread the word. Succumbing to public pressure, the Delhi government banned the lottery in 1995, but soon Delhi High Court quashed the order saying that the lottery trade is the sole business of the Centre.
Undeterred, we approached the then Prime Minister Shri H D Deve Gowda apprising him about the need to ban the lottery trade. After becoming a Member of Parliament, I introduced a Private Members’ bill seeking a ban on the lottery and got 122 other MPs to sign a memorandum in favor of passing the bill. With pressure building even inside the parliament, an ordinance banning instant lotteries was finally passed on 2nd Oct' 97 as a tribute to Gandhiji.
The ordinance needed to be followed by a final bill which was yet to be passed. In the meantime, the Lottery Vyapar Mahasangh began false propaganda about the loss of employment and state revenue. But their argument fell flat; the state earnings through the lottery were small and there was barely any loss of employment. Instead, the trade was ruining the lives of poor, downtrodden families. The lottery traders soon resorted to agitation, and death threats to my family members became a norm.
After long years of blood, sweat, and tears, in 1999, the government of India passed the bill banning lottery across the country. With that judgment, the single digit lottery stopped being in existence, but other sorts of lotteries remained to be banned and my fight shall go on until it’s uprooted in totality.
Chandni Chowk, my former parliamentary constituency, is a perfect example of the multicultural and multi-religious India. On a street stretching barely a mile stands a Mosque, a Gurudwara, a Temple, and a Church. On several occasions, I have fervently expressed the need to get Chandni Chowk recognized as a heritage city by the UNESCO. I reasoned by showcasing the rich culture of the walled city in my two books: “The Emperor City” and “Old Delhi and the Walled City”. I am also humbled to receive the Global Excellence Award and the prestigious Sur-Sadhna Award for my work in the field of Culture, Heritage and Development.
In 2001, we took a major step to revive the old glory of Chandni Chowk through a two-day festival called ‘Chaudhvin Ka Chand’. The festival involved restoring the 3.5 km stretch, from the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. The traffic was limited to only 200 rickshaws and 8 open buses; other vehicles were made to park at Red Fort to avoid cramping the Chandni Chowk area. As a part of celebrations, 282 houses, 599 shops and all buildings of cultural importance, including Red Fort, were renovated and illuminated. Kiosks were set up to sell traditional crafts of Chandni Chowk and to offer the exotic cuisines of old Delhi. Besides to preservation of the heritage of the walled city, the festival also helped in strengthening harmony in the multi-religious area like Chandni Chowk. Other key steps taken for the redevelopment of Chandni Chowk include a walled-city museum, all-India kite-flying festival, restoring Urdu Poet Mirza Ghalib’s Haveli, Huxar Haveli (the place where the baraat of Pt. Nehru stayed) and Chunnamal haveli.
A couple of years ago, we finished another restoration work on the 19th century Dharampur Haveli in Old Delhi. Over the course of six years, the building was painstakingly transformed from tatters to an exquisite boutique hotel. Dozens of dedicated craftsmen and laborers worked with traditional materials and special construction techniques alongside modern technologies to carefully return the Moghul-era building to its former splendor. Later the UNESCO recognized our restoration work with Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation, mentioning that the project serves as an inspiration for restoring other sites and Shahjahanabad as a whole in all dimensions.
Senior Citizens’ Welfare
About 9% of Delhi’s population is above 60 years of age, and close to 40 percent of these senior citizens live below the poverty line. They continue to face issues concerning safety and lack of basic amenities. The disintegration of the joint-family system has compelled them to take shelter in the limited number of Old Age homes in the city.
With no effective assistance coming from the administration, I realized that further help was needed to improve the situation. I constituted the Senior Citizens Federation of India under the guidance of my father and former Delhi Assembly Speaker Shri Charti Lal Goel, to give voice to the needs of the Senior Citizens in Delhi. The federation has been organizing demonstrations, workshops, and meetings to raise the problems faced by the citizens living in their twilight years. Protests are held against the price hike, increasing number of crimes against elderly citizens, meager pension amount or other concerning issues. While conferences and workshops held to create awareness amongst the senior citizens about their rights and duties.
One such event is Senior Citizens’ Conclave which is held regularly at Talkatora stadium, to deliberate on the condition of a large number of senior citizens who are neither provided any support by the government nor by their own families. The first conclave was graced by Advaniji who shared his views on the issues faced by senior citizens and the ways through which senior citizens contribute to the development of the society. A booklet titled ‘Senior Citizen Information Book’ has been released in this regard.
Through conclave, a charter of demands is being put out, such as the creation of a National Commission for Senior Citizens, fast track courts for speedy redressal of grievances, free medical insurance for those from the BPL segment, increase in monthly pension and recreational centers in residential colonies. Besides, it would be better if a mechanism is explored to use the unclaimed money from the accounts of deceased senior citizens for the welfare of other senior citizens.
For the past 5 years, I’ve been visiting parks and public places every morning to meet senior citizens and understand their issues and convince them to come together to form a group. A dedicated website www.seniorcitizenindia.org, launched by Smt. Najma Heptulla, former Dy. Chairperson of Rajyasabha is already in place. The website was launched to create awareness about the various schemes and facilities provided by the government to the senior citizens. It also provides various emergency numbers for their reference. The website is a sincere attempt to draw people’s attention to the plight of senior citizens. They have spent their entire lives shaping the society we live in; it is time we now extend a helping hand to them.
During my anti-lottery campaign days in the late 1980s, I met different people living in extreme poverty. The ones I clearly remember, from these slums, were children who suffered neglect and were denied every basic human right. What surprised me was that these children nevertheless were happy and content, and were unaware of the state of their surroundings. This left an indelible mark on my mind and I decided to do something for them. A thought rose to mind, what could offer joy to a child than a toy to play? And thus the Toy Bank came into existence to offer toys to needy children, to assist them to live a better childhood.
The Toy Bank as the name suggests houses toys, toys which are old and discarded. The toy donors can call the volunteers for home-pick or leave them at one of the many collection centers across Delhi. These toys are then refurbished and stored in the Adarshila Library, in Pitampura, before they are distributed among kids in JJ Colonies, MCD schools, orphanages, and at shelters for street kids.
Initially, every child was issued one toy at a time, which they could exchange it for another when they were done playing with the first. The reason was to inculcate in these kids a sense of responsibility.
We approached several public schools and encouraged them to donate toys. The initiative witnessed success and the idea caught on. We have collected over 15 lakh toys impacting the lives of 5 lakh+ children in 24 different states so far. Collection drives are organized on special occasions such as children’s day and the birth anniversaries of renowned public figures. Individuals who are interested in joining this project can contact us so that every child can have a happy and memorable childhood.
One must appreciate how Vijay Goel is working so hard and looking out for all sports. One can feel the change. Best wishes!
Simply will appreciate Vijay Goel's working style, witnessed his personal attention to west Delhi - Paschim Vihar ppl even at late hours.
No cricket with Pak until terrorism stops, says sports minister Vijay Goel Finally! Kudos for a much needed call!
Vijay Goel is a national leader with wider vision and worked on the ground in Delhi.