It was election time. High pitch election fever was everywhere. Money was profusely distributed throughout that constituency. Election agents of a candidate belonging to a particular political party arrived at Mangaleshwari Nagar, a remote village in East Coast Road of Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu, with boxes of fresh currency notes of 500 and 1,000 denominations to distribute among people of this particular village. One currency note was available for each voter to get his support. But, to those agents’ surprise, the people of this village categorically refused to accept money from them.
“Let the Grama Sevika of Sewa Bharati come, you speak to her”, was the reply from the people of the village.
The agents patiently waited for hours. The Grama Sevika reached the village as per her regular programme. She was informed about the presence of agents with currency notes.
“We will cast our vote to an honest and patriotic leader of high spirit, not for money”, the Sewa Bharati volunteer roared. This was echoed by all the villagers. This incident forced the agents to return with dejection. One of our national problem was defeated in a nice and simple manner by the Sewa Bharati volunteer, by commanding the trust of the people by her relentless work and service mindset. The Grama Sevika guided the entire village and she was along with the people who stood as an example for the entire nation.
This is just a glimpse of the positive change being brought about in remote areas of the country by the volunteers of the Sewa Bharati. The Sangh swayamsevaks today runs more than one lakh similar service projects in remote areas of the country. Only under the banner of Sewa Bharati more than 50,000 service projects are run at about 23,000 places. It includes 13,786 projects of education, 10,908 of health care, 17,560 of social welfare and 7,452 self-reliance projects. It does not include the rural development projects.
“This change did not come in one day. It took about three decades for us to win the trust of the people. Today our workers are serving people from birth (Matrichhaya) to death (crematorium). Self-respect is being infused among the people of Sewa Bastis by starting various projects of self-reliance. Not only the children, but youths and adults also are being made literate. During the birth centenary year of Shri Guruji, Sewa Bharati, Delhi made more than 12,000 people literate just in three months. Now this project has been adopted by various other Prants with the objective to make every countryman literate,” says Shri Sitaram Kedilaya, Akhil Bharatiya Sewa Pramukh of RSS.
Before the formation of Sewa Bharati in 1979, the then RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Balasaheb Deoras addressed a gathering of uniformed swayamsevaks at Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi on Varsh Pratipada Day (April 8, 1978) and formally called upon them to go to different sections of the society to start constructive activities among them. He directed the swayamsevaks to raise self-respect of the socially and economically deprived people so that the whole Hindu society could stand united and foil the game plans of the anti-national forces. It was a new direction to the swayamsevaks who till then were busy in running mostly the daily shakhas.
Before this call by the late Balasaheb Deoras, several swayamsevaks had individually started some service projects at certain places and their results were very encouraging. The organised initiative of service activities began only after this call of Bala Sahebji who himself inaugurated a Samskar Kendra in Delhi, later. Some experiments of service had also begun in southern parts of the country, especially in Karnataka, with the inspiration of the late Yadavrao Joshi, but there was no concrete initiative in northern parts of the country. It was Shri Vishnuji, presently the patron of Madhya Kshetra Sewa Bharati, who started a coaching centre at Sangam Park, a Valmiki Basti of Delhi, and practically materialised the call of the then Sarsanghachalak in the beginning of 1979. By the end of 1979 Sewa Bhartai was formally formed and registered in Delhi. It was the beginning of an organised service initiative on the part of the swayamsevaks. Gradually, this work took roots in other states also and various kinds of activities, as per the requirements of the bastis, were added to it.
In the year 2002, a national body, namely the Rashtriya Sewa Bharati, was formed to provide an umbrella cover to all the service activities being run by various wings of Sewa Bharati all over the country. Besides these projects of the Rashtriya Sewa Bharati the VHP runs 34,910 projects, Vidya Bharati runs 9,682 projects, Deendayal Research Institute runs 1,000 projects, Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram runs 6,503 projects, Bharat Vikas Parishad runs 1,050 projects, Rashtra Sevika Samiti runs 404 projects, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad runs 168 projects and Akhil Bharatiya Drishtihin Kalyan Sangh runs 66 projects.
Sewa Bharati is committed to weed out the difference of superior and inferior from the society and different kinds of activities are being carried out by its volunteers to achieve this objective. This year on Republic Day when the whole country was busy in watching the live telecast of Republic Day celebration from Rajpath, New Delhi, the Sewa Bharati activists organised padyatras in 11 Sewa Bastis of Delhi. The padyatras were led by 18 senior saints. Prior to it, Swami Satyamitranand Giri, Swami Parmannda Maharaj, Didi Maa Sadhvi Ritambhara, Swami Raghvanand, Baba Prakash Shah, Mahant Naval Kishore, Mahamandaleshwar Ramate Jogi, Sant Nityanandji, Swami Divyanand Maharaj of Gita Niketan, Haridwar and Sadhvi Samvidanand also visited the Sewa Bastis in Delhi. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also attended a function organised at Gannor (Haryana). The visits of saints in Sewa Bastis strengthened the unity of Hindu society and a large number of people who were being misguided by the alien cultures returned home.
Besides various projects of health, education and Bal Samskar the Sewa Bharati volunteers adopted terrorism-affected children of Jammu & Kashmir. Over 70 of such children presently stay at Gopaldham project of Sewa Bharati at Bhopra, Ghaziabad. Sewa Bharati has made complete arrangement for rehabilitation of these children, who were handed over to it by the Army about three years back.
In order to instill the spirit of nationalism into the children of Sewa Bastis the Sewa Bharati volunteers organise Bharatmata Poojan on Republic Day every year. Lakhs of children participate in these functions. Sewa Bharati also utilised the tradition of Kanyapoojan in north India to bridge the gap of poor and rich. Lakhs of girls belonging to Sewa Bastis are invited by the people of well-to do families during the navratras and they are worshiped like goddesses with full respect. It proved very effective in strengthening the feeling of social harmony.
The initiatives of Sewa Bharati have received applaud not only from the society but also from the government. It has been honoured by various state governments. “Our work is not reactionary. We are working for the society and not to counter the activities of other people or organisations. This is not sewa. It is our duty towards our own people. It is our duty to provide those facilities to the deprived people that we desire for ourselves. We are basically working with this feeling of duty,” adds Shri Sitaram Kedilaya.
(Rashtriya Sewa Bharati, 10196/A, Sewa Kunj, Mata Mandir Gali, Jhandewalan, New Delhi-55, E-mail: email@example.com)