By Ravindra Saini
Samaj hai aradhya hamara, sewa hai aradhana; Bharat Mata ke vaibhav ki sewarat se sadhna. (our society is our ideal and which we worship by conducting social service. For us service is a sacred vow. We shall take Bharat to prosperity and glory through social service.)
Such a service is being rendered in Uttaranchal by the Uttaranchal Daivi Apada Peedit Sahayata Samiti (UDAPSS), which was formed when a tragedy befell the Garhwal region in the Himalayas in October 20, 1991, when 768 people and about 3,000 cattle lost their lives and over 20,700 houses were washed away. The workers of the Samiti were the first to reach the earthquake-devastated region to nurse the injured, remove the wounded and the dead out of the debris and distribute relief material. They also trekked to the villages located at distances of 18 to 20 kms from the road and reached even the villages situated at a height of more than 8,000 ft above the sea level.
During the last decade, two major earthquakes (at Uttarkashi and Chamoli) have devastated Uttaranchal. A lot of work is being done for rehabilitation in the affected areas by the Samiti under the guidance of veteran Sangh activist Dr Nityanand, who has fully devoted himself to the cause. Relief material worth Rs 1.50 crore was distributed and 427 quake-resistant houses were constructed with equal participation by the villagers in ten villages of Uttarkashi district. After two years, the Samiti adopted a remote tract extending from Uttarkashi to Gangotri and comprising sixty villages lying in a difficult terrain of strategic importance and inhabited by impoverished, backward people. The Samiti launched the Upper Bhagirathi Rural Development Project in July 1993 with the objective of bringing about integrated rural development, social equality and self-reliance.
Prohibition and Protection of Environment
Nashmukti projects are being organised under the convenorship of Shri Virendra Bhatnagar. Students and parents plant trees after performing yajna under an environmental conservation programme. A check-dam was constructed to protect the cultivated fields from soil erosion by a nala (rivulet) in Pata village. Villagers and school children planted nearly 700 hardy trees on barren public land over the last two years.
No villager consumes alcohol in the village. All cases of litigation are solved by mutual agreeement in the presence of the dramdevata.
Realising that spread of value-based education is the most effective means of social change, the Samiti has started single-teacher schools in 23 villages of remote and backward areas. In addition the Samiti runs 12 Shishu Mandirs, four Vidya Mandirs and eight Samskar Kendras. By and large the Samiti has spread its activities to 40 villages in a small tract of Upper Bhagirathi valley.
The impact of the social activities was felt when the Samiti celebrated its 10th anniversary in October 2001 with 500 uniformed RSS Swayamsevaks demonstrating various feats of boxing, niyudha, yogasan and dand. About 1,000 villagers were present to witness the programme. It was a scene of complete social harmony when people participated in the community lunch without any hitch. The lunch was prepared and distributed by persons of all castes.
The hostel at Keshavpuram is being run by the Samiti since 1993 where free accommodation and coaching are provided to students from backward areas or very poor families. Scholarships are awarded to students according to their needs. The hostel is equipped with a library containing over 5,000 books, a computer centre, a gymnasium, a solar water heater and three tanks for rainwater harvesting.
India Development and Relief Funds (IDRF) donated a Mahendra Voyager to work as a mobile dispensary van, which covers about 30 villages, distributing free medicines and ambulance facility for transporting serious patients to Rishikesh, Dehradun, Delhi or Chandigarh. Under the model village project, Kamar village has been selected for over-all development. A weekly satsang is conducted in every house by rotation. No villager consumes alcohol in the village. All cases of litigation are solved by mutual agreement in the presence of the gramdevata.
The Samiti has devised disaster management techniques on the basis of the experience gathered during the previous two earthquakes, forest fires, cloudbursts, etc., and has a team of dedicated workers experienced in providing relief during calamities.