Nargis Dutt Memorial Cancer Foundation: a Lighthouse of Hope for Cancer Patients

It was a pleasant afternoon on September 18 that I was in the company of Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation Board of Governors and Executive Members at Akbar Restaurant in Garden City, Long Island. Sher S Madra, Chairman of Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation was present with his colleagues to give an exclusive interview to The Indian Panorama.

Present on the occasion were members of Board of Governors and executive committee members that included Inder Bindra, Founder and a Past President, Peter Bheddah, a Past President and a member of Board of Governors, Shammi Singh, another member of Board of Governors and a Past President; she is chair, Entertainment and Fashion Show, Hussain Baqueri, General Secretary, Gurdip Singh Narula, Treasurer and Zinda Singh, member, Board of Directors.

In reply to my question as to how the idea of forming NDMF came up, the septuagenarian Inder Bindra, one of the original 14 founding members and the only one to be going strong, a Past President and currently a member of Board of Governors recounted how the great organization with a noble vision came into being.

In 1981 Nargis Dutt who was suffering from Pancreatic cancer was treated at Sloane Kettering Institute in New York. In spite of best efforts of doctors and the loving care of her husband, Sunil Dutt, cancer ultimately snuffed life out of the legendary cine artist.

Inder Bindra recalled that in April/May, 1981 Sunil Dutt had come to New York to settle the bill for Nargis Dutt’s treatment at Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center. They were together in the Bahamas when the idea of forming Nargis Dutt Memorial Cancer Foundation came to their mind. It was later that he , along with 13 other persons with philanthropic disposition (some of whom have since withdrawn or have migrated to the other world ) held a meeting with Sunil Dutt and discussed the issue of forming the organization.

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Sunil Dutt, Bindra said, felt mightily pleased and said he was obliged for the offer to form Nargis Dutt Memorial Cancer Foundation. Thus, the embryonic idea took a shape in 1981. And soon, the first formal meeting took place in the month of May, 1981 itself. The NDMF was registered as 501-C 3 Not-for Profit corporation. Ranjit Ghura and Russel Rosen in Wall Street who was the attorney helped in the formation of the corporation. Inder Bindra recalled the first meeting of the 14 founding members at the residence of Dr. Amarjit Singh. Each of them contributed $500.00. That was the beginning, 31 years ago.

Sher Madra added that from that humble beginning, in 31 years NDMF has come a long way. During this period the NDMF has completed 56 projects valued at more than 5 million dollars. NDMF today has chapters all over the world. In North America itself, the Foundation has chapters in New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Austin , and Vancouver.
During the course of the interview, each person present contributed to giving a view of the organization; much of it however came from Inder Bindra.

To a question on the broad objective of the NDMF, Inder Bindra said it was to “improve and upgrade medical care and treatment of cancer related patients; and to provide financial support for the training of doctors from India specializing in the field of cancer”.

To another question about the criteria for giving financial assistance to an institution working to fight the scourge of cancer, Inder Bindra said that there are clear guidelines in this respect. He said the Foundation gives financial assistance to only charitable hospitals in India. Also, no cash is given; only equipment is provided. There is another condition attached to the assistance that it should be used for treating the poor and the needy. All equipment sent to a charitable organization has to be installed in the hospital for the care of the cancer patients.
Bindra added that in India the nodal chapter is in Mumbai which is managed by Priya Dutt. Earlier, it was managed by Sunil Dutt until his death. The India center overseas the entire project. In fact, the procedure followed is India office sends recommendation and NDMF creates resources to fund the project.

Speaking about the projects undertaken by the NDMF, Peter Bheddah said the Foundation had completed 56 projects worth more than $ 5 million. He said that last year the Foundation provided Radiation Field Analyzer valued at $150,000 for cancer treatment to Indore Cancer Foundation Charitable Trust, Madhya Pradesh. The grant has been made possible, in part, to the efforts of Ms. Priya Dutt.

Peter Bheddah quickly listed some of the more notable projects undertaken by NDMF in the last 31 years. In 2010, NDMF donated $20,000 to American Red Cross for Haiti Relief . In 2006, Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust Hospital in Dhahan Kaleran, Punjab was gifted a Mammography unit, valued at $80,000.In 2005, NDMF donated 425,000 towards Indian Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for Tsunami Relief in South India. In 2001, NDMF provided earthquake relief consisting of medical supplies and providing primary health care facility in earth quake ravaged Gujarat. Similarly, Sohana Eye Hospital in Punjab was provided eye equipment valued at $45,000.

Peter added that NDMF has already completed the Pune Project that was reported as being under consideration which takes the total number of projects done to 57. Further details of the projects undertaken by NDMF can be obtained from

Sher Madra clarified that besides the projects that NDMF does regularly, the Foundation also attaches great importance to the training of doctors from India in cancer treatment in the US. He said NDMF is affiliated with Indian American Cancer Society who have their offices all over the United States. This Society selects doctors from India for training in the treatment of cancer. NDMF sponsors the doctors thus selected.

Of the proud achievements, Bindra said, is the one relating to first bone marrow transplant in India in 1984. He said it was sponsored by NDMF. He added that the beneficiary- a girl- is still alive. Also, he recalled that Praful Desai from Tata Cancer Institute, Mumbai was the first doctor from India who was sponsored by NDMF for training in cancer treatment in the US. Dr. Desai was trained here for 6 months.

Inder Bindra listed another great job that NDMF has been doing since its inception. It is to recognize talent, achievement, accomplishment and contribution of people.

He mentioned some of the more notable honorees from the past. They included Dr. Jatin P Shah, world renowned Oncologist at Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Manjit Bains, Dr. Nori, Dr. P. Narsimhan, and Dr. Jeremy Boal, Bindra said that each year 5-7 eminent personalities are selected for honors.

The 2012 honorees include Kamlesh Mehta (Lifetime Achievement), Haridas Kotahwala (Lifetime Achievement), Gurdev Singh (D.P.) (Business Entrepreneur), Dr. Parag H. Mehta (Excellence in Healthcare), Dr. Tanveer Mir (Excellence in Palliative Medical Care), Ravi Chopra (business Entrepreneur), Sudhir Vaisnav (Community Service) and Gurdip S. Narula ( Services to NDMF)

Those honored in 2011 included Mrs. Anupam Goenka, Mr.Arvind Walia, Dr. I.G. Bhat, Dr. Digpal Dharkar, Mrs. Vandana Govil, Mr. Mohinder Singh Taneja, and Dr. Dev Ratnam.

Shammi Singh, a prominent Member of Governing Body and Chairman, Entertainment promised a very entertaining evening with the Fashion Show being presented by Ginni Jaggi in conjunction with Parvesh & Jai , leading designers from New Delhi who will showcase their latest range of fashion wear. which has a 25 models who will showcase

Giving information about the Chief Guest, General Secretary Hussain Bacqueri said that Mrs. Priya Dutt, Hon. Member of Parliament, and daughter to Nargis and Sunil Dutt will be gracing the occasion as the Chief Guest. Keynote speakers include Hon. Mrs. Priya Dutt, Hon. Ambassador Prabhu Dayal, Consul General of India in New York and Nassau County Executive Hon. Edward P. Mangano

NDMF Treasurer Gurdip S. Narula said that they expected 500 guests at the gala. He made a special note of the fact that NDMF incurs no operative costs. All money is paid by the members themselves.

Asked about the composition of Board of Governors, Sher S Madra explained that it consists of six active Past Presidents. The Board of Governors at present, consists of Inder Bindra, Founder and the oldest Past President, Peter Bheddah, a man of all seasons, N.D. Mansukhani, ever ready to help, Dr. Jagdish K. Gupta, one size fits all, Shammi Singh, the entertainment maestro, and Dr. Inderpal Singh Chhabra, the smart organizer.

Inder Bindra made a closing statement that NDMF has members from all walks of life and from all faiths even though the Foundation primarily is concerned with providing relief against cancer and thus, is of a medical nature, and the cancer care is provided in India.

The 31st Annual Fund Raising Gala is being held on September 30th, 2012 at Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, 101 James Dolittle Boulevard, Uniondale, NY 11553.

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