Not many politicians in the country would have come up with a noble thought such as the ‘Gift a Smile’ initiative conceived by IT and Industries Minister K T Rama Rao to celebrate his birthday. Bouquets, cakes and street banners are a strict no-no on his birthday. Instead, Rama Rao opted to ‘give’ to the needy on his birthday through the initiative.

If it was ambulances in 2020 – the Minister donated six of these emergency vehicles – this year around, he decided to donate, at his personal expense, 100 customised two-wheelers to differently-abled persons on his birthday on Saturday. What is more, his act of charity creates a ripple effect with Ministers, elected representatives and TRS leaders responding to his call to open up their pockets and do their bit for society.

Following his announcement to gift the vehicles, requests through social media platforms poured in from across the State, and at last count, the line up was around 700. “We expect the requests for the customised scooters to cross the 1000 mark,” an official from the Minister’s office told on Friday. Matching the ‘demand’ for the vehicles, pledges from Ministers and elected representatives to donate the vehicles at their cost was close to 800, and this number too is likely to go up.

”Smile a Gift,’ launched last year by the Minister, saw a total of 100 ambulances, including his six, being donated to Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) that operates the 108 ambulance service in the State.

Among the TRS leaders who have announced their donation of these customised scooters this year were Chevella MP Ranjith Reddy (101), Panchayat Raj Minister E. Dayakar Rao (105), Labour Minister Ch. Malla Reddy (50), Transport Minister P Ajay Kumar (50), MLC Naveen Kumar (100), MLC Shambipur Raju (60), MLC Pochampally Srinivas Reddy (60), Government Whip Balka Suman (50), Achampet MLA Guvvala Balaraju (20) and TRS Malkajgiri Parliamentary constituency in-charge Marri Rajashekhar Reddy (24 coinciding with the date).

The distribution of the scooters, which was expected to take place on Saturday, has however, been deferred by a few days in view of the heavy rains.

Meanwhile, Rama Rao appealed to party leaders and workers to stay put in their respective home towns and help people in view of the rains as directed by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and avoid coming to Hyderabad on his birthday.

“I will not be meeting anyone tomorrow and I appeal to party workers not to take it amiss”, Rama Rao said in a statement here on Friday.

In the interim period, the requests for the scooters would be scrutinized and a district-wise detailed list would be prepared, the Minister’s office said, adding that based on the Software for Assessment of Disabled for Access Rehabilitation and Employment (SADAREM) certificate produced by the applicant, the requests will be processed.

In case the applicants do not have SADAREM certificate, the Minister’s office will assist them in obtaining it. This was being done to cross-check with the government data and ensure only eligible beneficiaries get the vehicles and avoid duplication.

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