SHRI Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghachalak of RSS while addressing the Sewa Sangam on February 7, 2010 in Bengaluru said, “The volunteers of Rashtriya Sewa Bharati are serving the society in a way that is different from many others. They are out to generate a self-reliant class out of the underprivileged ones.” He further stated, “The volunteers do not want the underdeveloped to be at the receiving end all their life but start serving the society as soon as they are on their own. Let them also enjoy the joy of ‘giving’. To be appropriately presented this would mean ‘turning beneficiary into benefactor’ and not the present locale of ‘once a beneficiary always a beneficiary’.
Looks like a tall claim indeed. The milieu being the modern independent India where most people like to draw undue advantages out of any given situation, many would extend a hand to receive something and not to partake anything, many are not concerned whether they are entitled to receive or not but would not hesitate to receive, many would not bother that they are grabbing something meant for someone else that might pinch a kid’s belly. Well, in this situation a claim of ‘self reliance’ of the beneficiary or turning the ‘beneficiary into a benefactor’ seems to be hopeless.
The Sarsanghachalak went ahead to tell the delegates present in the conference, close to 1000 drawn from some 450 odd organisations, that the Sewa being offered is neither for religious conversion to some faith nor for attaining the punya. The elite in this country almost worship an icon for receiving the highest global award and the icon did not have qualms in committing that the charity is for ‘harvesting the unreached’. Billions of dollars pour into this country in the name of charity and development only corrupting the religious panorama of India. Both charity and faith lose, while a group or other attains the ‘target’. Otherwise, Hindus connect every act to accumulating as much punya as they can through Sewa. Yet, the Sarsanghachalak wanted the representatives of the organisations not to indulge in religious conversions while they serve.
“Ego”, the Sarsanghchalak said, “has no place while you serve. You are fortunate having the opportunity to serve the underprivileged, the underdeveloped, the illiterates, and so forth.” Controlling the ego is a major challenge for the educated and the elite. Lessons in humility do not come through books or computer; one has to master this virtue through practice and experience alone. No other means to achieve the humility. In the modern era every activity is being verified through the lenses of ‘fashion’ and that serving the society is also a fashion that adds ‘colours’ to one’s personality. Of course, not to mention that everyone trying to help others has at the back of one’s mind ‘puffing’ self profile. However, the delegates in the conference were asked to shun ego and fashion, and learn humility.
I had the opportunity to talk and discuss with the grass roots as well as the higher ups in the echelon present in the Sewa Sangam and decided to have a reality check on the ethics that were presented from the podium.
Participants, I could understand, were from large voluntary organisations on the one hand and small on the other, not to mention that there were the mid-size also. Budget and expanse of activity wise, some were restricted to a village or a slum while the others were covering a state. A fine spectrum well spread to understand the quantity and quality of activity, their penetration and acumen in reaching the legitimate needy, I thought. I could talk to quite a number of delegates to gauge the organisations they are working for, their working method, their finance management, their achievements, et al.
Annapurna Mahila Bachat Gat (A women Self Help Group) working in the village Kolda of Nandurbar district is involved in producing the Neem seed kernel powder. The Dr Hedgewar Sewa Samiti through the Krishi Vigyan Kendra Nandurbar had trained the group in producing the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) that includes physical, biological, chemical control of pests. The major component of IPM is the Neem seed kernel powder.
The SHG could produce 32 quintals of Neem seed kernel powder last year to earn Rs 48,000 and this year could produce 60 quintals to earn Rs 90,000, making the women participants of the SHG self-reliant, enhancing the confidence of the women from the small and remote village. The Annpurna Mahila Bachat Gat is now looking for other avenues to work together and earn better, helping their kids for improved education.
If this was the case of the SHG producing the Neem powder to be self reliant, the story of some others who utilised the same powder to advance their economic resources needs to be listened to.
Namdev Atmaram Koli, a small farmer from Hatmohida village in the same district had been cultivating Bt. Cotton for quite a few years now. However, he adopted the IPM method since last two years using the produce of the Annapurna Mahila Bachat Gat to save on chemical sprays which cost him Rs 3600 per hectare to Rs 1700 per hectare while the net earning on the cotton produce has been enhance from Rs 27,500 to Rs 39,850 on the same plot of land. The local resources and technology has been effectively used to provide self reliance to the women’s SHG as well as helping the Vanvasi farmers improve on their profits.
I wish to elaborate a case of Kantilal Gojilal Naik, a Vanvasi farmer from Navapur Taluka among the Satpura Mountain. Kantilal was harvesting rice for quite many years and since his training with the KVK Nandurbar has doubled his rice harvest. It was the training in seed treatment, Integrated Nutrient Management, and Improved agronomical practices along with improved rice variety that brought the difference.
But this is a difference that many other NGOs can talk about. Kantilal, the Vanvasi farmer from the remotest village has gathered the courage and conviction to offer his own farmland for experimenting to the agricultural university. Any person with integrity, just cannot ignore what the Sarsanghachalak was talking about and will have to trust his word
Dr Hedgewar Sewa Samiti Nandurbar accomplished the self reliance in the remotest villages through the SHGs and the agricultural innovations. Can we have a look at the urban slums and the much talked about city of Bengaluru?
Ramya, a girl at the age of 5 had to resort to rag picking, like some other children because she lost her parents before that age. She had a noble hearted neighbour who accommodated the young kid but the supporting family was also part of the slum and had economical restrictions. Ramya used to leave the home everyday for rag picking from 8 AM to 8 PM, a rigorous 12 hour routine.
She would spend her entire day rummaging through large piles of trash sorting out and recyclable paper products. At the end of the day Ramya would take the paper products she had collected to a recyclable centre where in exchange for her findings she would receive Rs 10 only, a paltry sum for day long toil. That is inhuman on the part of the civil society.
Ramya was 8 then. She was spotted by a Sewavrati of Nivedita Nele, a home for rag picking girls run by Hindu Sewa Pratishthana Bengaluru. Quickly Ramya could understand the importance of education and joined the Nivedita Nele starting her 1st standard at the age of 8. The challenge of being in a home and discipline was huge for the young girl who was enjoyed the roaming and roving at will on the streets of the city. She struggled a lot to herself for a year or so and was helped by the Sewavratis, full timer ladies, to settle down.
Ramya is now 13 studying the 5th standard and has a dream of serving the aged people whom she watches around while she walks up to her school from Nivedita Nele home. This is amazing to understand that a girl, who was destitute herself, that too within a short period of just 5 years, is dreaming of serving others. Ramya is not alone for singling out. Saumya, a 4th grade student from Nivedita Nele topped her class with 100 per cent marks while Netra, a 10th standard student, excels in traditional Rangoli art and a compere of programmes par excellence.
Let me also talk about a village and this is from the southernmost district of the country-Kanyakumari. Perumal Self Help Group-a women group-has influenced the life of their village absolutely. Caste differences are done away-women representing all castes in the village are members of the group-no discrimination. Drinking water tank-which happens to be the bone of contention in every other village-is open to all villagers. The members of the SHG initiated cleaning process of the tank themselves offering karseva, following which whole village participated. ‘Anganwadi’ centre for the young kid’s education was brought into the village from a neighbouring village as the students had to walk long. An enterprising unit using the green technology to manufacture plates and bowls out of Areca nut leaves has been established-from micro finance to micro enterprise development. The local village Panchayat and Banks, observing the impetus, have joined hands with this SHG offering funding to various schemes in the village.
Well, can not this be called the metamorphosis that the Sarsanghachalak was talking about? Turning the beneficiary into a benefactor, appropriately!
Well, a Ramya from Bengaluru streets, a Kantilal from the remote Vanvasi village in Satpura, the Annapurna Mahila Bachat Gat SHG group from Nandurbar, the Perumal SHG from Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, are just a few examples of the change that is being brought in the minds of the beneficiaries by the dedicated band of activists. Not bothered about someone watching them or not, someone cares for them or not, they have raised the flag of development and that they would carry till they achieve the goal. The urge to serve and the urge to develop are innate and concurrent among the people who volunteer and the people who are being offered some kind of support through this movement. This is something different, I realise from what I see otherwise.
Are they not the “grass roots leaders” joining hands for development of the underdeveloped and yet do not cater any ego, totally selfless shunning name, fame or anything else, and sowing the seed of self reliance in the minds of people who would have been otherwise?
Probably, these are the people who made the Sarsanghachalak speak out for their action.
(To be concluded)