VHP’s one-teacher schools (Ekal Vidyalayas) number up to 26, 880 and they cover 7,72,065 students of which around six lakh students are from tribal areas. This is the largest Hindu missionary work in India and perhaps even in the world by a single organisation. What’s more, wherever there is an Ekal Vidyalaya, there is a village development unit under which a medical centre is run, making the number of medical centres also to 26,880.
VHP also has other educational projects: About 569 primary schools covering 59,300 students, 156 secondary schools covering 12,750 students and 53 senior secondary schools covering 2120 students. Then there are 15 residential schools, many night schools, 104 hostels including 44 orphanages. All these cover over 75,000 poor and needy children who are given standard quality education and many other facilities of life. (In one of such tribal schools, last year, the Board result was 100 per cent and the highest marks a student got was 93 per cent. Recently I met a smart student of second year MBBS. To my joy, he was from one of VHP’s orphanages.)
VHP has health projects: 34 hospitals, 99 dispensaries, 19 mobile dispensaries, 28 ambulances, 192 first-aid centres, four medicine collection centres, 13 goumutra therapy centres and many such related centres. Total patients covered under these are annually 2,80,000.
Just recently in Pune a project Niramaya has covered 68 slums and 18 construction sites for vaccination of children there in age group of one day to six years. Total 12,025 children are vaccinated and one lakh doses were given. They have a mobile van too so that the poor children do not need to come for it—Niramaya goes where they are.
Not just education or health, some sadhu-sants are doing what ideally falls under the purview of the governments in power only. In Andhra Pradesh, Ananthpur District, 700 villages have been supplied clean drinking water through modern pipes worth Rs 350 crore. Not by any government department, but by Sri Sathya Saibaba. And it’s free!
Arya Samaj has 700 schools covering 15,00,000 students and 80 colleges covering 16,800 students.
Swaminarayan Gurukul schools are 142 covering 12,000 students, 160 high schools with 1,20,000 students and 25 colleges.
Sadhvi Ritambharaji runs an orphanage for little girls at Vrindavan, which has at this moment 350 little girls taking modern education. They would have been wandering on streets becoming victims of heinous crimes but now they have bright dreams of future in their eyes.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji’s developmental work covers at least 30,000 villages where natural agricultural projects and organic farming are done, in which only in Karnataka 2000 youth are engaged full time and at all-India level at least 20,000 youth look after this. He also has established a programme for awareness about and help to AIDS patients all India. Recently, there was a well-attended caucus of Hindu leaders organised for this and many of us pledged our active support to it.
Hunger is the number one killer in the world and in India. VHP, to fight this is doing a project “Ek Mutthi Anaj”, where the workers of various industries who have lost jobs due to recent economic slowdown are provided with 15 kilos of foodgrains each for their families and the target is to cover at least 12,00,000 families with this anna daan. So far we have covered 15,000+ families. It also has a food bank where housewives take out one mutthi anaj everyday, which is collected by volunteers for distribution systematically. That no family has to resort to begging for the food is the most important part in it. Ek Mutthi Anaj programme goes to their houses and respectfully distributes foodgrains to them.
Sri Sathya Saibaba also has a high-tech heart hospital where they target to do 1,25,000 heart surgeries. About 25,000 surgeries have already been done at a zero cost.
Not just socio-developmental projects but VHP is also doing a lot in the field of art and culture. In Pune, a music album made waves recently. Songs sung by Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki’s son Shounak, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s shishya Upendra Bhatt and Shri Vasantrao Deshpande’s grandson Rahul Deshpande made this album a great hit and it was done by VHP. The artists gave programmes for VHP and then the album was made, which is now available on the stands. Art is an important part of Hindu Dharma and it is our duty to preserve our fine arts.
This effort was also made in the field of children’s paintings. In tribal schools, a painting competition was organised, which got tremendous response. Twelve paintings were awarded and brought to people as greeting cards. All participants got a certificate each.
At Dharmasthal near Mangalore, Manjunath Devasthana is working on a unique project of innovative natural agri-systems in 500 villages. They also have a legally-accepted local justice system.
Self-reliance projects by us are helping youth and women in many villages with 94 sewing centres, 63 computer training centres, 306 women’s self-help groups with micro credit and savings facility, two mechanical training centres, one honey-bee centre, 16 household industry centres, 112 libraries—the list is long and the beneficiaries are in millions.
Maa Amritanandamayiji has been running a multi-specialty hospital in Kochi, which serves around 48,000 patients annually, has 38 hi-tech departments and 1,650 beds—the largest in Asia
All this is not given here to brag at all, like many governments do—distribute some school bags and brag about it as if they have done a global revolution in girls’ education or run few ambulances and brag about saving every life on the earth. No. The objective of giving the above details is only to draw the attention of all the well-meaning Hindus to the reality that Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants are engaged in a lot of socio-developmental works for Hindus. This is just a glimpse of it. I apologise to many other Hindu organisation and to all sadhu-sants and many Hindu researchers who have been doing mountains of such socio-developmental works for years. But due to limited space and lack of detailed info, I could not mention them here.
From education to health care, from micro credit to self-reliance, from agriculture to clean drinking water supply, from vocational training to free food supply and from child care to women’s welfare—Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants are busy doing what is truly termed as socio-developmental work with utmost dedication. The only part of development, which they are not able to do, is infrastructure development, which obviously governments in power are authorised to do as yet. As it is the responsibility of Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants (and all Hindus) to protect the heritage, monuments, culture and people of Hindu dharma, this responsibility of Hindu socio-developmental work is being perfectly taken up by the Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants, in spite of their limited resources and political pressures.
The happiest part of this socio-developmental work is that it is a great joy to see the tribal, poor children’s eyes shining bright when they study and go ahead in life, to see the poor women happily telling their friends as to how they got their daughters married with their own income, to see a terminally ill, poor old man getting cured, free of cost and walking on his own feet.
The saddest part is that the one-sided media and a few vested interests groups purposely ignore/ demean such a good work and focus on tarnishing the image of Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants with some one-off incidents and paint them (and Hindutva) as anti-development and outdated. The saddest part is also the limited financial and other resources with Hindu organisations. But the Hindu dreams are brighter and the determination to realise them is much more greater.
(The writer is a cancer surgeon and VHP’s secretary general and can be contacted at [email protected])