Archive for February, 2010

Rashtriya Sewa Bharati Passion for training activists and building organizations

Rashtriya Sewa Bharati Passion for training activists and building organizations

Source: Organiser
By Shyam Parande

A bright but shy looking young boy of 9, I walked into while I was visiting Shanti Niketan—a free hostel run by Sewa Bharati Himachal Pradesh in the panoramic Dadsai, some 100 kms off Shimla, stunned me when he revealed that it was his first bus ride of life and that he had never seen a bus before he boarded one for Dadsai. He had to walk some 20 kms down the hills to hit the road for boarding a bus. “Am I living in 1908 or am I in 2008,” I pinched myself before I believed the boy. How the hell this young boy missed the buzz of modernity, leave alone missing the first look at a “bus”.

However, for a change, the boy had arrived in the hostel and was admitted to the nearby school and that assured me of his future. That brought me to some more prodding on my part. How does someone reach the remotest village to pick up this boy? Who did the job and how did this person convince the villagers that the boy would be taken care of and get educated? Why the parents of the boy did trust this person?

My probe led me to some consoling and convincing responses. But for the motivation, and the training of the activist, that he received from Rashtriya Sewa Bharati (RSB), this would not have happened. Without the motivation he would not have walked up the 20 kms “uphill task” to reach the village! Without the training the activist could have failed in impressing and influencing the minds of the boy’s parents and the villagers who trusted his words!

I started looking into more such experiences and was astonished to find that this did not happen only in the picturesque Himachal Pradesh but is happening across all the states of Bharat. The more I try to probe the more revealing it is.

I was listening to the experience of a lady full timer, Sewavrati as they are known, from Tamil Nadu. She narrated the action in one of the Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Kanyakumari district wherein more than 3000 SHGs are being managed by women under Sewa Bharati. In a village called Thirparappu the SHG comprised of 18 women members belonging to one particular caste and two members from another caste. Caste divisions in rural areas are distinct and divide society many a times. The caste association wanted the less represented caste women to be removed from the SHG. The activists who were running the SHG refused bluntly to budge. The caste association tried to play the other card of tempting them with an interest-free loan of Rs one lakh against removal of the two women belonging to the other caste. The SHG members turned down this offer and defied any discrimination in the name of caste among them. This is something unheard of otherwise in that part of the country in a village.

I visited Assam last May and had an opportunity to talk to a group of youth working as Arogya Rakshaks in the North Eastern states. This was probably the most convincing experience for me. A young lady Arogya Rakshak who had completed the training of 21 days duration saved a patient’s life who had a severe health problem. She first tried to treat the patient with whatever medicine was available to her in the kit and then decided to take the patient to the district centre to an expert doctor. The timely action saved the life as the problem might have been fatal, informed the expert doctor.

The case of Manjunath, a paraplegic boy whose parents, relatives and neighbours had lost hope on, is today a guide to many other handicapped or differently able children. The transmutation was possible because of the sustained efforts of dedicated women Sewavratis in Bengaluru and the experts who involved Manjunath’s family as well as school teachers from the village. Everyone around was bleak about the future of this young kid when the Seva-in-Action, an associate organisation of RSB, started working with the kid to rehabilitate him. And lo, the boy is up and moving and working and encouraging many others with physical disabilities.

Why did the Seva-in-Action activists and the Sewavratis at all go to the village to find out Manjunath through a survey? When everyone around including his own parents was hopeless why did they accept the challenge? Obviously, they were fired with the idea of serving selflessly. Obviously, they are inspired by the lives of some famous personalities. Obviously, they were motivated. Obviously, they were trained for the job unlike others. Obviously, they continue to work tirelessly for the society for decades.

The job of picking up the raw volunteers from the society, orienting and motivating them to serve the society, providing the training for the required jobs, developing the skill sets of the person to suit the tasks, utilising the best in a person towards social service and that too voluntarily, is being carried out by Rashtriya Sewa Bharati.

Promoting voluntarism in the days of “professionalism” is a huge challenge, one might think, but RSB can state proudly that the youth of Bharat are eager to volunteer their time and talent, given an opportunity and orientation. Good number of youths has joined and is devoting their time despite the professional pressure on them, despite the educational challenges they face. Well, one cannot also negate that the corporate sector is encouraging their personnel to volunteer, the colleges and the universities wish their students serve the society.

Every voluntary organisation faces certain problems which can be foreseen and yet for the individual organisation, tackling these is most difficult. RSB has a pool of experts who can help out in such situations and provide the consultation. To enlist a few common problems here will be worth. Preparing project proposals, building resources—both human, financial and expertise, training and orienting volunteers, assessing the projects, analyzing the challenges, involving communities, preparing flyers & brochures & handouts and such public relations activity, are some of the problems and challenges that every social service organisation faces, irrespective of the size of the organisation.

Sewa Sadhana the annual publication of the RSB provides a window for the organisations to present their achievements. Every issue of Sewa Sadhana highlights one dimension or the other. Urban slum programmes, some inspiring experiences in serving society, rural development were certain issues that Sewa Sadhana presented in last couple of years. These issues have been received by many with admiration. They are published in both Hindi and English for maximum outreach.

(The writer is presently International Coordinator of Sewa International and has an experience of three decades in the voluntary sector.)

Open letter to Mr. Shahrukh Khan By Bandyopadhyay Arindam

Open letter to Mr. Shahrukh Khan By Bandyopadhyay Arindam

Dear Mr. Khan,

Your name is a household phenomenon in Indian and even beyond her borders.
Your fame has put you in the Newsweek “most powerful people list” recently.
However, as you may recall from your recent experience in New Jersey
Airport, real life is a little different – it does not always follow the
path predicted by a scriptwriter or director.

Of late, we have been reading about your opinions and statements on matters
beyond the celluloid world. Nothing is wrong in it. You live in a free,
democratic country and are entirely entitled to your opinion. But as a
common man, also from the same soil, I think I have the right too to raise
a few points that may not conform to your views of the real world.

I hope you will read it out.

When recently, the Pakistani players were not selected for the IPL, it was
almost predictable that NDTV, the award-winning, mouthpiece of our Indian
liberal media select you for your views and you certified that “It
( Pakistan ) is a great neighbour to have. We ( India and Pakistan ) are great
neighbours. They are good neighbours.”

I have a few words to say about those statements.

One may recall your effort to clarify the Pakistani team captain, Shoaib
Malik’s apology to the Muslims, living all over the world, for failing to
win the final T20 match against India , likely much to the embarrassment of
a lot of Indian Muslims, as expressed by Shamin Bano, mother of the man of
the match, Irfan Pathan. What was more embarrassing was your effort to try
to defend Shoaib in a subsequent interview, “I don”t think he meant to
segregate Muslims and Christians and Hindus and say this was a match
between Islam and Hinduism. I don”t think that…”

I doubt whether Shoaib talked to you personally about his thought process
at that time. You did not really have to respond for somebody else but
perhaps you could not resist the temptation to show your brotherhood and
solidarity.

This reminds us again of Dr Ambedkar’s observation that, “The brotherhood
of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is brotherhood of
Muslims for Muslims only.”

Partition of India was what Pakistan wanted and got. It was painful to
millions but many more millions in present India have been spared. Since
then Pakistan has offered us only hatred. It has imposed on us three major
wars, the Kargil insurgency, the Kashmir conflict, the series of serial
blasts, the routine violation of border ceasefires, attacks on the
Parliament House and the recent Mumbai 26/11 attack.

Did you have these in mind when you talked about them being good
neighbours?

In another interview you had tried to explain the concept of Islamic Jihad.
“I think one needs to understand the meaning of jihad .. Ive understood the
essence that jihad is not about killing other people; jihad is about
killing the badness in you.”

May be you understand jihad better and deeper than the superficial meaning
of what we, the rest of the mortal mankind, overburdened and terrorized by
the inter-religious, intra-religious and sectarian violence that is
plaguing the world in the name of Islam today, do. For we, the less
educated, cannot really make a difference between Jihad and Qatl, between
Jihad by heart / soul, Jihad by pen and Jihad by sword or between lesser
and greater jihad.

We wonder, whatever its meaning may be, does it minimize the significance
of the mindless killings that we see today in the name of Islam, across
borders, all over the world? Does it change the nature of the killers
whether you call them holy warriors, mujahidins, fedayeens or plane suicide
bombers?

We agree with you that terrorism has no religion. But hopefully you will
also agree with the people who perceive that most terrorist in the world
today happen to believe in the scriptures of Islam. They actually believe
that they themselves are the true Islamists.

The so called “moderate” Islamist, perhaps does not want to contradict them
or may be does not dare to speak out against them. You have probably not
forgotten the FIR against you for listing Prophet Mohammed as one of the
most unimpressive personalities in history, the threats from which you had
to skillfully wriggle out. Others who are not so fortunate, famous or
flexible are suffering lifetime, as Tasleema Nasreen or Salman Rushdie
would testify. For blasphemy in Islam is punishable with death, even for a
believer.

Do I have to spell out the fate if it is a non-believer?

It is due to the inherent intolerance and exclusivity of Islam itself
despite your effort to convince us that there is an Islam from Allah and
very unfortunately, there is an Islam from the Mullahs.

Here is an historical insight from writer Irfan Hussain, “The Muslim heroes
who figure larger than life in our history books committed some dreadful
crimes..all have blood-stained hands that the passage of years has not
cleansed. Indeed, the presence of Muslim historians on their various
campaigns has ensured that the memory of their deeds will live long after
they were buried…Seen through Hindu eyes, the Muslim invasion of their
homeland was an unmitigated disaster.”

So why should the “non-believers” care to accept them? Why should the
majority of Indians like to welcome back such disasters again?

Since partition, India has come a long way in progress and development to
her current status and is projected as an economic superpower in coming
decades while Pakistan is perceived as a failed state on the verge of
disintegration.

What does India have to gain by offering neighbourly friendship to such a
hostile and failed state?

India has never been an invader and is not in conflict of any other Muslim
country. None of the wars and conflicts with Pakistan was instigated by
India . In the current geopolitical situation, one can argue for the Muslim
worlds grudge and anger against Israel or the west and USA but one fail to
fathom why India should also be at the receiving end and why Indians should
be the second largest group of people to die from terrorists attacks.
Indian majorities do not have anything to do with the Danish cartoon or the
death of Saddam Hussain; so why should they suffer from Islamic havoc on
those occasions.

In almost all occasions of terrorism, questions are raised about possible
role of Pakistan , its terror bases and its terrorist organizations, as
either directly or indirectly involved. Be it state sponsored (as recently
admitted by President Zardari) or by non-state actors, Pakistan or
Pakistani born are prime suspect in terrorist activities all over the
world. The ISI has been accused of playing a role in major terrorist
attacks including 9/11 in the USA , terrorism in Kashmir , Mumbai Train
Bombings, London Bombings, Indian Parliament Attack, Varanasi bombings,
Hyderabad bombings, Mumbai terror attacks or the attack on the Indian
embassy in Kabul .

Do you believe these are marks of a good neighbour? Then what is the reason
for your preaching of love towards Pakistan ?

Perhaps, as you said, because it is your ancestor’s homeland, you have a
soft feeling for Pakistan and cannot see the difference. On the eve of
accepting an honorary doctorate from a British university, we heard you
say, “I really believe we are the same ..when you come away from India or
Pakistan you realize there is no Indian or Pakistani were all together. We
are – culturally, as human beings, as friends”

Which Pakistanis are you referring to?

The Pakistanis belonging to the land, admonished as the epicenter of global
terrorism, not just by India or USA but even by its friendly allies like
Iran or China .

Or is it the self-created, Talibanic Pakistan , who still imposes Jijya on
the non believers or finds pleasure in blowing up girl’s schools..

Are you talking about its President class like the current Mr. Zardari,
vowed to wage a 1,000-year war with India or the late Mrs. Bhutto who
started Jihad in Kashmiri that lead to the exodus of Hindu minorities from
the Muslim majority state of India , as refugees in their own country?

Are you referring to Pakistanis loyal to the ISI and the military who train
their soldiers with only one objective, i.e. to fight Hindu India?

If your mind is concerned about the faceless mass of Pakistanis, does it
also include the dwindling minorities?

Or are you just concerned about the celebrities and the social elites?

It is true Mr. Khan that we belong to the same human species but it is hard
to stretch the similarities much further between “us” and “them”.

We from the same original land of Bharat but we want to keep her intact,
they want to break it into thousand pieces.

Our ancestors happen to be the same. We acknowledge and adore the heritage
but they abhor and decimate whoever is available in an attempt to wipe out
the link.

We are culturally the same. We have created the culture over centuries what
they dream to destroy in moments.

Ours is a 10,000 year old civilization, theirs is a 62 years old country
undoing whole human civilization.

We extend our hands repeatedly to promote friendship and amity; they give
us ISI, Lashkar, Harkat, Kashmir , Kargil and 26/11 in exchange.

Do you think that the Indians nationals who died in all the above wars, the
Indian soldiers who lost their lives in cross-border ceasefire violations
or the Indian civilians who are killed by the ISI trained Islamic
terrorists and their affiliates, in all those serial blasts, all over the
country, willfully sacrificed their lives as a friendly neighbourhood
gesture?

Can you face the families of the victims of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or
the martyrs of the Kargil war and try to explain to them that “They are
good neighbours. Let us love each other.”

Can you explain why the two gunmen at Cama hospital, during the Mumbai
carnage, asked the man who gave them water, what his religion was, and shot
him dead when he said he was a Hindu?

If you cannot, then perhaps you understand why the majority of India does
not consider Pakistan as a good neighbour to have.

Perhaps you believe that the peaceful religious co-existence that you
created in your home (and we appreciate that) can be extended to the large
world outside. As you rightly said, we Indians trust and do accept
everybody but what you did fail to mention was that it is the Indic
tradition, essentially coming out of its pre-Islamic Hindu ethos.

If you think otherwise, show us a single Islamic country where the
non-believers enjoy the same equality as the believers. Since partition,
the Hindus left over in Pakistan and Bangladesh has suffered terribly.
Strictly Islamic countries, like Saudi Arabia , do not allow any other
religions to exist. Hindus working in the Gulf countries are not allowed to
practice their religion in public. Saudi Arabia insists that India sends
only a Muslim ambassador. Hindu Muslim unity by and large has generally
been a matter of Hindus trying to please or accommodate Muslims. One cannot
forget when Vajpayee was extending his hand for peace Musharraf was
planning the Kargil insurgency.

Let us remind you, your own statement “I am a Muslim in a country called
India .Weve never been made to feel this is a Hindu country.”

Can you find me a Hindu in Pakistan who can reciprocate that sentiment?

Some years ago, another Mr. Khan, first name Feroze, from your fraternity
was banned from entering Pakistan for saying, ” India is secular unlike
Pakistan “.

That is the basic difference of the land of “Hindu” India from the Islamic
“pure land” of Pakistan .

So please do not ask us to love Pakistan .

Please do not lump the people of India and Pakistan together. We Indians
are proud to preserve our separate identity..

And please do not insult the land that gave you your life, name and fame,
by claiming that her worst enemy, who wants to break her into 1000 pieces,
is a great neighbour.

Otherwise it would be sad if somebody accuses you of putting your religion
ahead of your country.

Please give it a thought.

Regards,

Arindam Bandyopadhyay.

Go gram yatra signatures presented to president

Over eight crore signatures presented to President at Rashtrapati Bhavan
Saints demand complete ban on cow slaughter

New Delhi: January 31, 2010: Leading Hindu saints, religious leaders of Islam and Christianity, cow scientists, experts, organic farmers and leaders belonging to various social organisations of the country today met the President of India Smt Pratibha Patil and handed her over eight crore signatures collected during the 108 day Vishwa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra from all over the country. The Yatra had begun from Kurukshetra on September 30, 2009 and concluded in Nagpur on January 17. The leaders urged the President to declare the cow as national cultural legacy and ensure complete ban on her slaughter. In a memorandum submitted to the President they also requested the President to form a separate ministry at the centre for protection and promotion of Indian breeds of cow.

Demanding enactment of a central law for cow protection and ensuring its strict implementation the saints said there must be strict ban on all the slaughter houses operating in the country.

Demanding formation of a Kamdhenu University in all the states, the saints also appealed to the President to develop the atmosphere in the country where all farmers could live a dignified life and no farmer needs to commit suicide anywhere in the country.

According to Shri Sitaram Kedilaya, member of the delegation, the President heared the delegation very patiently for more than an hour and assured to take appropriate action in this regard.

The 20 member delegation was led by Gokarna Peethdhishwar Shankaracharya Shri Raghaveshwar Bharati Swamiji. Other members of the delegation included working president of the Yatra Samiti Dr HR Nagendra, Baba Ramdev, former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri KS Sudarshan, Pejawar Swami Shri Vishveshwara Teertha, Didi Maa Sadhvi Ritambhara, noted cow scientist Shri Kesari Chand Mehta, guide of the Yatra Shri Sitaram Kedilaya, vice president of the Yatra Samiti Shri Hukum Chand Sanwala, former CBI director Sardar Joginder Singh, Swami Parmanand on behalf of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vijayamrita Chaitanya on behalf of Mata Amritanandamayi, Shri Adesh Goel on behalf of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Guruji, Arch Bishop of Lucknow Shri Moisis Don, Chhote Miyan Moinuddin Sabari, Buddhist leader Shri Rahul Bodhi, and others.

Prior to it, the saints addressed a mammoth rally at Ramlila Grounds and warned the government not to test the patience of the countrymen. After many years the Ramlila Grounds of Delhi was seen fully packed. Addressing the gathering Shankaracharya Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swami described the hastaksharas (signatures) collected from all over the country as divyakashar (divine letters) and said they reflected the voice from the core of the heart of the countrymen. He said if the government fails to take any effective step for cow protection; the saints would start a sangram (battle).

VHP president Shri Ashok Singhal said the saints had presented about two crore signatures to the then President Dr Rajendra Prasad in 1952 and now they are presenting over eight crore signatures for the same objective. But no government respected the sentiments of the majority of the countrymen.

Former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri KS Sudarshan said the chemical fertilizers and pesticides have ruined the Indian agriculture and this was the prime reason of suicides by over two lakh farmers in different parts of the country. He said organic farming is the remedy that can save both the country and the farmers from destruction. He urged the Prime Minister and President the respect the sentiments of the countrymen and ensure complete ban on cow slaughter.

Pejawar Swami Shri Vishveshwara Teertha stressed the need to create Cow Zones in the country instead of Special Economic Zones.

Buddhist leader Shri Rahul Bodhi assured full support to cow protection campaign and said there must be anti-cow slaughter law in the country.

Dr HR Nagendra said after conducting awareness all over the country it is the time to start constructive activities at the village level for cow protection.

Shri Kesari Chand Mehta demanded the government to restore gochar land that has been snatched by the government and land mafia all over the country.