OK...Time for the recap and lessons learned for the QuickClot donation effort, 2009 - 2010.
Warning: It is a long post but try to read all of it.
The QuickClot donation effort was started on B-R forums during March 2009 I believe, after distressing news came out about multiple 1 Para Cdos personnel KIA during an op in Haphruda forests and the fact that many bled to death due to lack of sufficient blood clotting haemostatic agents. Many B-R members were enthusiastic enough to do a donation campaign and this thread was created to coordinate the efforts.
BRF member Bhavesh Bhatt based in the Bay Area took the initiative and proposed that he will take care of managing the fund collection by asking donors to deposit the funds into his business account. He created a Google Docs document for donors to list their names, emails and pledged amounts and the same document was to be used for tracking the pledges which had actually been deposited into his account. He also asked for volunteers to help in validating the donations and keeping track of the funds - I volunteered since I am also based in the Bay Area and George Joseph and Rajiv Makkar (long-time BR member and now lurker) also volunteered to help with the effort.
The donations amounts were either sent as paper checks or were deposited electronically to Bhavesh's PayPal account. Bhavesh and I would meet up regularly and cross-check the funds received both via checks and via PayPal. I personally collected the paper checks from Bhavesh, kept records of them and deposited them. I also kept all the deposit slips as proof that they had been deposited in order to keep an independent record of donation amounts.
At this point, the plan was to collect all the money, get hold of the agent in New Delhi who sells military grade QuikClot in India to the Indian Army and arrange for simultaneous transfer of funds to the agent and possession of QuikClot kits by an authorized IA representative. For this purpose, BRF member Raj Malhotra and Mandeep Singh Bajwa were designated for arranging for and being witness to the delivery ceremony. Since the donation was intended for IA units who participated in COIN ops, Mandeep through his contacts found out that the Jat Regiment would be a good choice since they have a number of RR units affiliated with them.
However, after many efforts including directly approaching various officers of the Indian Army including getting a file opened to get this whole process approved, it became evident that the IA was hesitant to accept material goods (such as life saving drugs) from civilian donors. To cut a long story short after much due diligence and months of effort going nowhere, it was then decided to donate the money instead and request the IA to buy QuikClot kits with them and otherwise use them for welfare of serving jawans and families of jawans KIA.
The fund collection part of the effort went on smoothly till end of May 2009 with George playing a key role as liaison with Mandeep while he made arrangements for the donation ceremony. Beginning of June 2009, Mandeep Singh Bajwa intimated George that for the IA to get permission to accept the donations, he needs to have the funds available and ready to be transferred to India. At this point of time, suddenly Bhavesh dropped out of contact for reasons known best to him. Repeated calls and numerous voicemail messages by Rajiv and me to his cellphone asking him to contact us immediately went unanswered and there was no e-mail communication forthcoming either. Finally, after a month of getting no response, I personally went over to Bhavesh's office but found it locked. I spoke to the manager of the office complex and found that he still maintained that office.
After a number of days of dropping by his office and also leaving voicemail, on Wednesday, 8th July, 2009, I finally came across one of his employees waiting outside the locked office. I requested him to call Bhavesh and using the employee's cellphone I was finally able to speak to him. Bhavesh said he was too busy and would not be coming to his office that day and asked me to come the next day. As I was leaving I met with Bhavesh (who seemed extremely annoyed to see me but that is my subjective opinion) and he again repeated that he would meet me the next day (Thursday, 9th July 2009). I told him that things had already been setup on the Indian side by Mandeep Bajwa and we needed to transfer the funds immediately. I told him we would need a Bankers Check for the donated amount so that it could be transferred to India by Rajiv Makkar, since Bhavesh was claiming he was too busy with his business and did not have time to take care of the fund transfer.
On Thursday, 9th July, 2009 I went to Bhavesh's office. Bhavesh arrived a short while later and told me he wanted to speak to me. We had a big argument where Bhavesh accused me of trying to follow him and I rebutted saying that I have been trying to get hold of him for more than a month and his "disappearing act" behavior was highly suspicious for someone responsible for holding all the funds which people had donated for a good cause. Bhavesh then told me that he needed my identification and home address before he gave the Bankers check (drawn in favor of Rajiv Makkar). After I provided him the information in writing and created two (2) copies of receipts, he handed over a Bankers Check for $6000.-, an amount substantially less than the total tally at that point which was $9337.- On being questioned about the remaining funds, he claimed he had it but refused to provide it on the grounds that he did not trust any of the other volunteers involved (I, Rajiv Makkar, George Joseph and Mandeep Singh Bajwa). He further claimed that he would only provide the money once proof had been furnished in writing that the initial amount of $6000.- had been transferred to India and already received by the Indian Army.
On Thursday, 9th July, 2009 I FedExed the Banker's Check to Rajiv Makkar who received it the next day. On 10th July, 2009, Rajiv Makkar called and said that he had deposited the Bankers Check and the bank had told him that it would take 3-4 days to clear. He informed Bhavesh of the same via SMS and voicemail but no response was received from Bhavesh. On 15th July, 2009, Rajiv Makkar called and informed that bank had cleared the Bankers Check and deposited the amount of $6000.- in his account. All donors were also individually contacted and asked to check if their check/PayPal donations had still not been deposited and to cancel the same ASAP. Through these efforts a further $750.- was recovered making the total available donation amount to be $6750.- Furthermore, all donors were contacted individually and asked to provide documentary evidence that their donations had been deposited. Each documented proof was transcribed and an accurate tally of the total donation amount was made. Moreover, on this thread members were repeatedly asked not to send any more donations however, some members ignored/did not read those posts.
In the end, based on evidence furnished by all donors, the total amount of donation came out to be: $12,192.27 (and Not $9337.-). Out of this Bhavesh had handed over $6000.- and a further $750.- was recovered after a donor cancelled his check and reissued it to Rajiv. Hence, the balance remaining with Bhavesh as of this date is $5442.27, which is still in his possession.
After assistance from RayC, George and Mandeep, Rajiv got a Demand Draft in Indian Rupees for the amount of $6750 (Less draft making and FedEx charges) issued in favour of the Jat Regimental Center. He also went ahead and created some publicity collateral such as a large blow-up of the check for ceremonial presentation, a letter addressed to the Jat Regimental Center Commandant on behalf of all donors/B-R and FedExed them along the Demand Draft to Mandeep which Mandeep confirmed as received within a few days.
Thereafter a few months passed while Mandeep in collaboration with his Indian Army contacts tried to figure out a good venue and time to present the donation - this thread archives that discussion. Finally it was decided to present the donation to the Colonel of the Jat Regiment (also head of India's Strategic Forces Command) during the Jat Regimental Center Reunion in October 2009. Mandeep personally went over to Bareilly and presented the draft where it was witnessed by numerous serving and ex-servicemen and highly appreciated.
Now the Indian Army had possession of the donation but things did not end there. As it turns out, despite any assurances that might have been provided to Mandeep, the Jat Regimental Center did not yet have permission to deposit the donation draft even though it was presented to them. The permission to deposit the donation had to be obtained by the JRC from Central Command and from Army HQ and it took precious months to come through.
Rajiv Makkar and I were in constant contact with the JRC officers involved but by the time they got the permission and deposited the donation, the original draft had already expired (since 6 months had passed from date of issue of the draft). We also learnt from the officer handling the case that the donation during the JRC Reunion had actually been made in the name of Mandeep's father Gen. Bajwa - a fact we were originally not aware of. Apparently IA regiments have no mechanism for directly accepting donations from foreign-based nationals or even private civilians. But they can accept donations from their own officers or ex-officers. Hence, the donation was officially registered by Mandeep in his father's name (who is an ex-officer of the Jat Regiment). Therefore, the IA had sent the expired draft back to Gen. Bajwa even though it clearly stated that the draft had been issued by Rajiv Makkar and the donation was from Bharat-Rakshak.com. Fortunately, Rajiv was able to get hold of Gen. Bajwa who was very understanding of the predicament and kind enough to promptly send the original expired draft back, at his own expense, to Rajiv in USA.
After receiving the expired draft back, we were able to get written assurance from the JRC officer handling this case that they would promptly deposit the re-issued draft and send a receipt to *both* Rajiv Makkar (who issued the draft) and Gen. Bajwa. The JRC was also asked about which major courier services delivered mail at their address in Bareilly. After that Rajiv got the draft reissued, though unfortunately the Rupee amount was less than that of the original demand draft due to a stronger Rupee as compared to the US Dollar and deduction of FedEx charges. He then sent the new draft via FedEx to JRC, Bareilly which was received by them a few days back and as promised they have now deposited the draft and issued a receipt which was posted on this thread.
So after more than a year of effort, a major portion of the funds reached their rightful donors though regrettably a substantial portion still remains unaccounted for.
All donors and Bhavesh were promptly informed via email that the donation had been received by the IA and were provided the copy of the receipt as proof. However, Bhavesh has not gotten back in touch despite his promises and still retains possession of over $5000.- of the funds collected.
II. LESSONS LEARNED
1) No more ad-hoc donations efforts despite all good intentions. If anybody wants to donate please do so individually at your own risk.
2) Do not donate directly to Indian Army regiments and other armed forces formations especially if you reside outside India. Unlike US military, the Indian military is not used to receiving donations in cash or kind directly from civilians. If you have direct links to a regiment (for example, through a relative) then it is fine but not otherwise. The best bet is to donate to the Indian Army Welfare fund - Any Indian Consulate will accept such a donation and it is tax deductible also.
3) If you plan to donate, make sure you ensure that it reaches the right place. Easiest way to do this is by donating to the Army Welfare fund or by contacting the defence attache of the closest Indian consulate.
Last edited by Raja Bose on 14 Jun 2010 10:11, edited 1 time in total.