Interview: Yesterday’s ‘receivers’ are turning into today's ‘givers’
The Sangh swayamsevaks today carry out 1,38,667 sewa projects across the country. One of the major outcomes of these projects is that those who’ve received the sewa yesterday are now involved in serving others. This change of mindset symbolises the impact of the sewa work by Sangh swayamsevaks. The Editor of Organiser Prafulla Ketkar and Senior Correspondent Pramod Kumar spoke to RSS Akhil Bharatiya Sewa Pramukh Shri Suhasrao Hiremath in Delhi to know about the sewa activities. Excerpts:
- What is the present status of the services being carried out by Sangh swayamsevaks across the country?
The Sangh swayamsevaks carry out sewa activities at different levels through about 600 organisations. Most of these organisations are now a part of the Rashtriya Sewa Bharati—an umbrella organisation formed through 2003. These organisations run about 57,000 service projects across the country. The other organisations, which we call mother organisations like VHP, Kalyan Ashram, Deendayal Research Institute (DRI), Bharat Vikas Parishad, Sewa Bharati, Saksham, etc. run about 81,000 projects. Hence, we can say that the swayamsevaks together run a total of 1,38,667 projects in the country today. We have projects dedicated for education, health, social uplift and self-reliance. The projects range from Balwadis to schools, dispensaries to hospitals, Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to employment training institutes, and Bhajan Mandalis to hostels. The schools run by Vidya Bharati are not accounted as sewa work—they are treated as constructive activity.
- What is the thinking behind organising Sewa Sangams?
With the objective of bringing all workers associated with the sewa work together to help them visualise the big picture and the vision of the work done, help them share their experiences with each other and above all boost their self-confidence, the first Sewa Sangam was organised in Bengaluru in 2010. About 1000 workers attended that Sewa Sangam. In fact, many of them expanded sewa work in their respective areas after attending that Sangam. I have no hesitation in saying that our Bengaluru Sewa Sangam has almost doubled the service projects and helped the workers extend their learnings in other fields.
- What is the contribution of sewa work in national life?
Swayamsevaks have been doing sewa work since the beginning, but it was formally institutionalised by senior workers like Shri Yadavrao Joshi, Shri Moropant Pingle, etc. about 60-70 years back. With the expansion of the Sangh work, the number of swayamsevaks increased and this workforce is always ready to provide selfless service during calamities. But now the swayamsewaks are encouraged to visit Sewa Bastis and take up any sewa activity there as per the needs of people. In order to expand and manage this work and train as well as sensitise the workers, the Sewa Vibhag was formed in the Sangh.
- What have been the turning points in this journey?
For us sewa is a medium of transforming the society. But through these services we don’t want to make those who are getting sewa lazy. We want that the one who is being served today should aspire to become the server tomorrow. That is how and why our projects have been and can have a lasting impact on the society.
We have around 6000 projects in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. This district has witnessed large scale conversions in past decades. But after our projects came into being, conversions have stopped. In fact, through our efforts we’ve been able to achieve total prohibition in these villages, and crimes against women have also come down.
We also have achieved good success in rehabilitation of nomadic communities in Maharashtra. We studied their problems and started different activities for them. Today we have hostels for 12 such communities and about 2000 students from these hostels have excelled in their life. We tried to make them self-reliant by imparting them different kinds of training. The families associated with us have almost stopped begging, stealing, consuming alcohol and indulging in any other anti-social activity. Some of the youth from these communities, both boys and girls, have even begun working as full time workers for Bhatke Vimukta Vikas Parishad.
Sewa work has also helped in eradicating untouchability. We have successfully bridged the gap between upper and lower classes. The Gram Pujari scheme started by VHP in Tamil Nadu proved to be a big hit. They organised a training camp of such Pujaris. About 55000 Pujaris attended the camp. Among them, about 80 per cent of them were SCs/STs. There was a time when these people didn’t had access to temples in Tamil Nadu, today they’re the Pujaris in these temples. Similar experiment was done in Andhra Pradesh by VHP in association with the Tirupati Devosthanam.
Our SHGs have women memberfrom all communities and they work together. In Kanyakumari, the village Sarpanch objected to the joining of a lower caste woman in such a group and he repeatedly insisted and even allured to oust the woman from the group. But the workers outrightly rejected the pressure. Today many full time activists are from lower communities only. By and large the yesterday’s ‘receivers’ have now turned as ‘givers’.
- Some people have questioned the financial help to some Sangh inspired projects from abroad. How do you look at it?
Most of our projects, about 90 per cent, are supported and funded by the local people and not even the government. The donation coming from abroad also comes only from the NRIs who want to contribute in the development of their respective regions. But that amount too comes only after the necessary rules and procedures are followed. During calamities also the help comes only after following due procedures. Since we do not get any fund even from the government, there is no question of taking money from foreign Foundations.
- What is the status of Gram Vikas activities by swayamsevaks?
We emphasise that any sewa activity should begin at the village level where we have a Sangh Shakha. Today, the work has begun in about 2000 such villages. Out of them there are about 600 villages where we have performed well in different fields like education, health, environment protection, water conservation, samskar, etc. Apart from it, there are about 125 villages where we can claim holistic development. We called such villages Prabhat Grams. We work so that these villages remain free from hunger, diseases, illiteracy, alcohol, dispute, untouchabilty, etc.
- The religious organisations also carry out sewa activities on large scale. Do we have any coordination with them also?
It has already begun in Tamil Nadu where Shri S Gurumurthyji organises Hindu Spiritual Service Fair every year. It prominently showcases sewa activities being done by religious organisations. Lakhs of people join it to have first hand information about sewa. It also acts as a good platform to exchange ideas. Kanchi Acharya has played a vital role in this initiative. Shri Gunwant Singh Kothari, Akhil Bharatiya Sah Sewa Pramukh, now has the full time responsibly of coordinating with the religious organisations, as there are efforts to organise such Service Fairs in every state.
- Are there any major planning’s for the future?
Efforts are on to start sewa work in all the Sewa Bastis of cities within next five years. This work has to be done with the help of local Sangh Shakhas. In Vanvasi areas also we want to reach every village. We have also decided to start sewa work in the backward villages, even in places where we do not have any Shakha. We are planning to mobilise man power for it. In Karnataka we have already mobilised about 27000
- What is being done to encourage the Youth?
The Youth for Sewa experiment started in Bengaluru has proved to be fruitful. About 2000 youth, both working and students, are doing Sewa. Some of them even teach free of cost in government schools. This work has now spread to Maharashtra and other states too. people for this work.
- What about those who are retired?
We are mobilising such people under Vanprasthi Yojna. In Rajasthan, it has good impact. There are regular camps for such people there.
There are people who dedicate from one month to one year or more for the society.