‘Manavaseva Madhavaseva’ in Action
Before Sree Ramkrishna Sevashramam (SRS) spread its tentacles to the Dalit colonies and the islands in the outskirts of Kochi occupied by the backward communities as well as Dalits, those were the days when these settlements were in deep darkness. They were the typical specimens of the neglected Hindu society struggling in poverty, social ostracism, illiteracy, ill health, etc.; Church and their followers kept on luring them into temptation to follow the ‘path of cross’. They were in total despair. The Hindus of those islands did not have any temple or no crematorium. The trustees of SRS found it their ardent duty to do their level best to empower their brethren who were engaged in the fight against the odds.
By the development of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its seva vibhag several silver lines appeared in the otherwise dark horizons. Seva Vibhag became a serious arm of RSS during the regime of its third Sarsanghchalak Swarg. Balasaheb Deoras, thanks to his realistic approach towards the social outlook. Several institutions came up for the uplift of the poor, blind, destitute population and even lepers. Most of them are launched by RSS workers some are by people drawing inspiration from the school of thought of RSS and some others are inspired by great sages or monks. Sree Ramkrishna Sevashramam (SRS) in Kalur, Kochi is one among the last category.
The SRS, even though sounds like a spiritual hermitage, is the fountainhead of various social service activities which at the end of the day appears to be “maanava seva, maadhava seva”. It does not belong to the Sree Ramkrishna Mission order, but is a Kochi-based NGO. SRS was launched in 1982 as a charitable trust aimed at the service of the poor, downtrodden and the destitute ones. Poojaneeya Swami Ranganatha-nandaji, late president of Sree Ramakrishna Mission (President of the Mission in Hyderabad those days), used to visit SRS every year and bless the annual day celebrations. Even though the very inception of SRS was for the service activities, Swamiji gave timely guidelines and advices for shouldering more and more succor to the needy, remembers CS Muraleedharan, the SRS trustee and general convener and the dynamic personality behind the multifarious activities launched by Ashramam.
During the initial days, the SRS gave helping hands to the poor school children who found it difficult to buy the books and other paraphernalia for their studies; but, within a few years, it graduated to be a pioneer in the relentless but silent efforts for the uplift of the poor and needy. The SRS team pooled financial aids from the generous elite in the city and extended financial assistance to the children for their education. Initially it was in the form of books, umbrella, school bags, etc. Later on they brought the selected children to the Ashramam and educated them in the schools and vocational institutions. They got free board and lodging in the SRS.
Villages were given the facilities for free medical camps, prevention of ailments originating from malnutrition and starvation, housing, community centres, etc. The SRS deployed competent faculty to conduct classes on Bhagavat Gita, Yoga, meditation, Upanishads and curative aspects of Yoga. About 12 villages are adopted in this style. The SRS made it a point to keep the doors, of the temples done by them, open for all communities including non Hindus; the same style practised in the temples run by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Kerala.
These activities gave a powerful flash to the OBC and Dalit communities in the adopted island villages that they are part and parcel of the broad Hindu community. They ceased to fall easy preys to the gospels of proselytisation. Karukutti village in the border of Thrissur and Ernakulam districts is one of the glaring examples in this context. There are about 200 Dalit Hindu families. The prophets of gospels had tried to lure them, but they failed, thanks to the yeomen’s service rendered by the SRS there. The societies who were ostracised for centuries were convinced that they are very much the indivisible parts of the vast Hindu community and the mainstream of national life.
Another significant project of the SRS is the Anjaneya Old Age Home being run in Vaikkom, Kottayam district under the banner of The Anjaneya Charitable Trust. It houses the poor, downtrodden old people cutting across cast, creed, sex or religious lines. The destitute people are looked after there with free food, accommodation and medical aid. Vanaprastha, an age care project of the SRS is a prestigious one. It is an old age home for those who miss their dear ones, due to the children’s employment away or abroad, despite having a financially sound condition.
Vanaprastha is considered to be the most exemplary one in this sector. Even foreign NGOs are guided to the SRS when they are on tour for studying this kind of institutions. The cleanliness, Ashram-like ambience, spiritual classes, bhajans, etc. provide a spiritual environment for the aged ones. They get proper and most sophisticated medical care when needed. The SRS also runs a Save Granny programme with the help of Help Age India. Penniless grannies of Karukutti village are provided with food, clothing and medicines worth Rs 500 every month.
Oncology awareness programme conducted by the veteran oncologists is another social service of the SRS. The SRS office bearers are all smiles to provide their premises for conducting meeting and classes on various cultural, religious and nationalistic activities. A regular Veda class of Kozhikkode-based Kaasypaashramam of Acharaya Rajesh is one among them. The SRS plays the role of a platform to introduce the poor students to the generous donors for their studies. C Narayana Swamy, an inmate of the Vanaprastha, is the prominent philanthropist in this direction. Swamy, a former GM of WIPRO has facilitated the studies of more than 60 professional course students. All those beneficiaries have landed in decent and lucrative professions, thanks to the divine helping hand of Swamy. He is totally averse to the self publicity; Organiser found it difficult to have a chat with him about his sterling aids to the young generation. He has asked the beneficiaries to follow the same style. Several luminaries have visited the SRS and lauded the activities. Atal Behari Vajpayee, senior RSS leader Madan Das Devi,
P Parameshwaran, late RSS veterans K Bhaskar Rao and
P Madhavji, etc. are a few among them.