Chapter 16: Never Judge a Book By Its Cover
‘Seva, Samskara, Samarasata’
In 1979, veteran social worker and the then RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Balasaheb Deoras addressed a mammoth gathering of Swayamsevaks at Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, on 8 April 1979, where he called upon them to start service activities among the neglected sections of the society.
He asked the volunteers to raise self-respect of the socially and economically deprived people of India. This speech is considered to be the initiating first step that led to starting the Seva Bharati.
Seva Bharati is a non-governmental organization (NGO) working among the economically weaker sections of Indian society, including tribal and indigenous communities. It also works among urban slum dwellers and resettlement colonies by introducing welfare and social service programs, such as free medical assistance, free education, and vocational training. It runs about 160,000 activities throughout the year in 602 districts.
The massive relief work carried out by Seva Bharati following the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, the 2008 Bihar flood and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami came in for considerable appreciation from various quarters.
The organisation is also known for its efforts in rehabilitating the victims of terror, especially the children who are rendered orphans by terror attacks.
The volunteers of Seva Bharati today are involved in more than one hundred thousand service projects in remote areas of the country. Volunteers have been the first to reach many natural calamities, be it floods, accidents or other natural calamities such as earthquake or tsunami.
Seva Bharati is reported to have 13,786 projects in education, 10,908 in health care, 17,560 in social welfare and 7,452 self-reliance projects.
These projects, serving the economically weaker and socially neglected sections of the society range from medical assistance, crèche, library, hostel, basic education, adult education, vocational and industrial training, upliftment of street children and the lepers. Through these projects Seva Bharti aims at making the underprivileged sections of the society self-reliant in all aspects of their lives.
The Seva Bharati organizational report states that it has over five thousand health care centers spread across India, including
- 2761 rural health care centers,
- 385 mobile clinics,
- 161 resident clinics in urban areas,
- 30 counseling centers and
- 7 leprosy medication and rehabilitation centers.
- It has a chain of 14 Blood banks and over three hundred blood donation indexes that serve in times of emergencies.
Seva Bharati also conducts AIDS awareness programmes targeting lorry drivers, taxi drivers, dhaba owners and the youth where hundreds of participants participate and discuss topics including “General health and hygiene”, “STD symptoms and mode of transmission”, “HIV-AIDS symptoms and mode of transmission” and “Safe sex”.
During swine flu epidemic:
The volunteers of the RSS, coordinated with the officials of various organizations, including the National Institute of Virology (NIV), the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the Indian Medical Association and held awareness campaign against swine flu.
Aid for visually impaired:
Seva Bharati and allied organizations have many eye banks that regularly conduct eye donation camps.
In one of the initiatives to provide free pediatric eye care to slum children, held in association with the Narayana Nethralaya in Bangalore, over
- 1010 slum children were screened.
- 200 children were detected to have visual problems and some of the conditions detected were corneal problems (18), squint (11), retinal (09), eyelid problems (16) and cataract (03). All these children requiring surgery & treatment received the same free of cost at Narayana Nethralaya.
Seva Bharati has rehabilitation centers for lepers.
One such center is near Rajamundry in Andhra Pradesh. The center was founded in 1975 by Colonel D.S. Raju who had been a personal doctor to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in INA. In 1982, it was handed over to the RSS and since then has been managed by RSS and Seva Bharati volunteers.
The yeomen service rendered by the organisation has found mention in the case study in rehabilitation of leprosy patients authored by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, the former President of India
Seva Bharati has rehabilitation centres named “Matri Chhaya” or (Mother’s care) for destitute children.
The aim of this project “is to facilitate a good, healthy life for those children who are generally termed ‘unwanted'”.
Human rights campaign:
From the Valley of Kashmir to the Hills of the North-eastern India Seva Bharati works tirelessly for the basic human rights. The campaign for the Kashmiri Pandits or the campaign for the Pardhees of Maharashtra (labeled at birth as criminal tribe) or the Chenchu tribals of Nallamala Andhra Pradesh or the Gonds of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh the campaign for a better life and rights continues.
Relief and rehabilitation during natural calamities:
Following the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake
News magazine Outlook reported “Literally within minutes RSS / Seva Bharati volunteers were at the scenes of distress. Across Gujarat, the (RSS) cadres were the saviours. Even as the state machinery went comatose in the first two days after the quake, the cadre-based machinery of the Sangh fanned out throughout the state. Approximately 35,000 RSS members in uniform were pressed into service.”
In the words of the district collector of Ahmedabad K. Srinivas: “This is an old tradition in the RSS. To be the first at any disaster strike: floods, cyclone, drought and now quake.
Following the 2004 tsunami:
The task of even taking the dead bodies to the medical centres appeared too daunting. It was the Seva Bharati workers who dared to venture into seashores and retrieve the bodies. From the beginning of the calamity on the morning of the 26th up to writing this on 2 January, the number of dead retrieved by Seva Bharati is 2,469! There have been occasions when some have been rescued alive while searching for bodies.” The editor of Tughlaq, and noted dramatist Cho Ramaswamy says “The concerned authorities admit privately that it was the RSS-sponsored Seva Bharati, which did yeoman service everywhere. Politics forbids them to acknowledge this in public”
Following the 2013 Uttarakhand Floods
In the Floods and cloudburst that created havoc and mayhem in Uttarakhand, June 2013 Seva Bharathi had 5,000 RSS volunteers taken up relief and rescue along with the Indian Armed forces.
The Largest ever rescue mission for the 100,000 pilgrims and locals.
Rehabilitating the victims of terrorism:
Seva Bharati has adopted a hundred children from the insurgency and militancy affected regions of Jammu and Kashmir including Gul, Mohore, Dharmani and Buddhal Tehsils in Udhampur and Rajouri districts.
The children, both Hindu and Muslim, who have been adopted have been rendered orphans by terrorist attacks in which many of the family members have been killed. The children are in the age group of five to fifteen. They will study till Class 12 in boarding schools in Delhi, which are funded or supported by the Seva Bharati.
These are just few examples out if the tremendous work Seva Bharati is carrying on. They are providing drinking water, education people on environmental awareness, they run rehabilitation of senior citizens, and these RSS cadres work as volunteers to accomplish various tasks and reach out to people in need.
It is always easy to carry a prejudiced opinion on an organization but like the famous quote,
‘ Never Judge a book by its cover’
What you see as a staunch Hindutva Organisation is actually taking part in every act of social service around us. Look out and appreciate, because dedicating ones life for social service is not a easy task.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth