Chapter 20: Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram – leading organization in the area of social service and grassroots nation building effort.
Since the formation of the Narendra Modi led NDA government at the center, it has become fashionable for the main stream media to blame RSS for the smallest of things. It was done on regular occasions in the past too but now, it’s the hot-new-trend.
Be it a policy initiative such as abrogation of the article 370 or a stray statement made out of personal opinions, the blame has to be placed on the RSS. The Sangh is blamed and accused by media and certain sections of the so-called secular intellectuals, of trying to weaken the foundations of our country.
The Other Side of RSS:
How trustworthy are the one-sided, & biased reports and prime time TV shows? How honest and truthful are the people aligning themselves as united force just to make sure the RSS is continually portrayed in bad light. Most of the people enjoy leftist editorials, which Indulges in reporting on a daily basis!
RSS is often painted with a broad brush by the media as a right-wing organization. In an increasingly polarizing world, right wing activists are looked down and blamed as ‘having potential of inciting violence’.
It overlooks the humanitarian efforts undertaken by RSS all over India. Even before United Nations and its various agencies became active in developing countries and the whole concept of NGOs caught up, RSS was the leading organization in the area of social service and grassroots nation building effort.
The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram:
The Ashram was founded in 1952 by Ramakant Keshav Deshpande (also known as Balasaheb Deshpande), an official of the Orissa State Department of Tribal Welfare, with the support of the State Government and the RSS.
The Ashram grew rapidly and a permanent office was established in 1963, inaugurated by the RSS chief M. S. Golwalkar.
It is an organisation working for the socio-economic upliftment and development of India’s indigenous tribes in the remote tribal areas of India.
The Ashram has been undertaking a series of programs in remote tribal villages. It has branches all over the country. In its 2002 annual convention, held at Varanasi, its national president informed the press that the organization has launched several welfare schemes for the development of the tribes at 8955 places in 312 districts of the country under the supervision of 1203 full-time workers.
These schemes aim at development in Agriculture, health, child education, sports, and culture. Most such districts have primary schools and in many places residential schools, hostels, libraries and health centers. Among the several annual events, the important ones include medical camps, traditional sports, and celebration of tribal festivals.
Notwithstanding the way mainstream media portrays RSS, it is the largest volunteer organization of the world known for its selfless service. It also motivates its volunteers to work in diverse areas.
From time to time, Swayamsevaks have started their own organizations in order to serve the society, one such organization is Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram(VKA): an RSS affiliate, changing lives of tribals much before communists started a violent movement in the name of Mao.
Unlike Maoists, who trained the local tribal polpulation for warfare against the nation, VKA imparted them education because of a firm belief in the potential of education for development.
Here is a brief glance at the work that Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram does:
- The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram was founded in 1952 by Balasaheb Deshpande.
- VKA is assisted by RSS volunteers in every work that it undertakes for tribal upliftment.
- VKA ashram believes in one thing “Keep working in silence”.
- VKA is working for Tribal Development: Education, Health and Economic development, Promotion of tribal culture and tradition, and protection of Tribal Rights on water, forests and land (jal, jungle and jameen).
- VKA is working in more than 375 tribal districts (having a tribal population of more than 25K).
- 7000 tribal students are staying in hostel facilities built by VKA.
- More than 100000 students are being trained in schools run by VKA.
- Students, after completing their education, join prestigious services like Army, Civil services, educational activity, government employees, physicians and technologists.
- More than 3000 VKA health workers reach more than 30000 villages with various medical facilities.
- Every year, more than 1.2 million patients are treated in tribal dispensaries/hospitals by VKA.
- Tribals are trained by VKA for their economic development. Various training programs undertaken by VKA are sewing, handlooms and handicrafts.
- VKA volunteers guide tribals to adopt better farming techniques.
- Education programs and awareness camps are also conducted for aged people, so that they can protect themselves from exploitation.
- VKA volunteers help to build check dams, in order to irrigate tribal areas.
In Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, Kalyan Ashram has taken up the Shiv Ganga project in 175 villages by which check/stop dams, contours and trenches have been constructed. As a result, the water table in these villages has risen by 15 feet (4-5 meters).
In Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, more than one thousand self-help groups have been activated by Kalyan Ashram workers. Through these groups, lakhs of people are benefiting.
Tribal cultural meets are organized at block/district/state and national level to promote their culture and tradition.
In 2005, North East Youth Cultural meet was organized in which around 5000 young boys and girls participated and celebrated their culture.
Cultural events like Kolatam, cake Bhajana and Dhimsa dance are organized by VKA every year, in order to protect tribal cultural.
Archery competition conducted by VKA for tribal brotherhood.
Accomplished Indian archer and Padma Shri recipient Limba Ram, whose family belongs to the Ahari tribe, was a student of the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram in Saradeet Village, Rajasthan who would go on to win many medals as well as represent India thrice at the Olympic Games.
Many other students from different schools of the Ashram across India have won medals at state and national levels in games conducted by the Sports Authority of India. The Ashram has various centers across the country where basic infrastructure is provided to train them in archery and help them preserve the tribal games.
Kavita Raut, a medalist in the 10,000-meter run at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, and who studied at Vishva Hindu Parishad Nasik, now trains at SAI Bangalore for better performance for the forthcoming Olympic games.
The Vanavasis (“Tribals”) were called Aboriginals and made victims of the divide and rule policy of the British. They were declared to be animists with no religion worth the name. The tribal regions were scaled off as “Protected Areas” to all except Christian missionaries.
The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram began working in those areas. Sanskar Kendras for women and children, schools, hostels, reading rooms, free dispensaries, and village and cottage industries have been started and are increasing in number throughout all the provinces.
The Ashram helps the tribes protect their rich cultures. It organizes performances of traditional folklore and dances like Kolatam, Chakka Bhajana and Dhimsa dance.
Among the several events, the important ones include medical camps, traditional sports, and the celebration of Tribal festivals as well as major Hindu festivals, like Raksha Bandhan, Hanuman Jayanti, Ram Navami, Govardhan Puja, Indal Pooja and Krishna Janmashtami. Look beyond the prejudiced prime time reporting of RSS by left inclined or to be precise from those journalists and leaders who have habit of linking ‘Hindu culture’ to any wrong that happens in the country.
There are Swayamsevaks who are sacrificing their comforts to make a world better place to live, no matter if you can not join them and appreciate their effort, do not bring their spirit down by maligning them.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth