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Mumbai’s sheriff comes to town
Dr Indu Shahani, the Sheriff of Mumbai, India, is in town. She, her husband Ranjit, president of the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), and their son Sid, are here to visit with their friends Kishore Advani and his wife, Marie, this country’s Honorary Consul to the Phillipines.
Don’t be fooled by her official title, however. Dr Shahani isn’t a sheriff of the type we’re used to in this part of the world. “I’m not a gun-toting sheriff. When I go to the US, I never declare I am a sheriff because they think I must be carrying guns,” she said.
Hers is an honorary post which links the citizens and the government, providing an opportunity to make a difference within the communities of Mumbai. In fact, the position was created by India’s former British colonial rulers. “The sheriff is more like Lord Mayor,” she explained. “Calcutta is the only other city with a sheriff. I am the 110th sheriff of Mumbai.”
Dr Shanhani was appointed Sheriff of Mumbai on January 5, 2008, and is serving her third term. She has been principal of H R College of Commerce and Economics in South Mumbai since 2000 and is a graduate of the renowned Sydenham College, Mumbai, and holds a PhD in Commerce from the University of Mumbai.
One of her first initiatives as sheriff was to establish the Women’s Helpline 1298 with the support of 20 of Mumbai’s leading NGOs. Dr Shahani also promoted voluntary blood donation to free patients from the pressure of obtaining blood and harnessed student energy for the municipal corporation’s Clean-Up Mumbai Campaign where the student volunteers would blow the sheriff’s whistle to keep Mumbai clean.
Dr Shahani also initiated the Green Mumbai Project and provided for clean drinking water in the Mumbai district jail. She has led sheriff’s delegations to interact with institutions and universities to UK, Europe, US, Australia and New Zealand, Quebec City, Montreal, Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore and South Africa.
Dr Shahani said she often enlists the help of young people for her projects because she believes they will continue the drive to position India as an economic power. “I tell people India’s growth is not going to come from financial figures. The stories are going to come from India’s young people. The challenge is to sensitise the privileged in India to the challenges. There is huge disparity between rich and poor.
She added: “We are asking students to work with different NGOs. And I think if the well endowed can understand what it means to be poor it can bridge the gap. That is where the growth story will come from.” Dr Shahani, who spent time in Tobago, described the island as glorious. “I found it virgin in many parts. I spent five hours at Nylon Pool,” she said.
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