“We believe that through character building, ordinary people can reach extra-ordinary heights”: Interview with Shridhar SagarShridhar Sagar (or Shridhar anna as he is lovingly called), is the director of Hindu Seva Pratishthana. After his education, he worked as a Manager in a Bank for 2 years before he decided to dedicate his life for social service. He joined the Rashtriya Seva Bharati, a Social Service Organisation, as a coordinator and helped organize community activities and train volunteers. He worked in many service organisations in different capacities throughout Karnataka. In the year 1989, he joined Hindu Seva Pratishthana and started working as a coordinator. Since then he has been very active and has overseen the birth and the growth of many projects. He became the Managing Trustee and the Director of Hindu Seva Pratishthana in 1997. In this interview Shridhar Sagar talks of the concept of Seva, about the different projects of HSP and how HSP is helping people internalize the value of Seva. Excerpts from the interview.
What is the main objective of Hindu Seva Pratishthana?
HSP’s main objective has been to bring a positive change in the society through community development. We believe in character building and in making men and women who can contribute to the community. We believe that through character building, ordinary people can reach extra-ordinary heights. Through our various programs, we have been able to involve a large number of young people into community development.
What is the philosophy of Hindu Seva Pratishthana?
Hindu Seva Pratishthana believes in ‘Seva Dharma’. Seva, we believe, is one’s Dharma (one’s duty). It should not be done for name or fame or for any other returns. It has to be selfless. But more importantly Seva should restore the dignity and self-respect of its beneficiary. The compassion that accompanies our ‘Seva’ should be capable of transforming a person from a receiver of ‘Seva’ to a giver of ‘Seva’. It is also important that through our Seva we create a strong and a harmonious society.
What do you think of today’s youth? Are they socially responsible? Are they receptive to the ideas of Seva?
There is currently a very strong notion that today’s youth are careless or are not responsible. My experience with young people helps me refute this. Today’s youth are very much receptive to the ideas of Seva and community development. For example look at the Sevavrathi program of the Pratishthana. Every year we invite young people who have passed a minimum of tenth standard to come forward as volunteers. These people have to stay away from their homes in different service project locations sacrificing many of their material comforts for a period of three years. HSP has been successful in attracting and training as many as 4123 Sevavrathis in the past 31 years. Out of which notably 3681 are women. These volunteers have worked on rendering yeomen service in service projects in various states including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. This Sevavrathi program is an example of what today’s youth are capable of achieving.
Give us a brief introduction to the projects run by the HSP.
Hindu Seva Pratisthana has been serving the needy, the under-privileged and the marginalized people, irrespective of their class, caste, creed and religion. It is trying to instill the values of seva in the society and helping thousands of people internalize Seva as part of their daily lives. Currently, HSP is mainly focusing on ten projects.
- Aruna Chetana: Aruna Chetana is a school for differently-abled and special needs children. This year, Aruna Chetana completes 24 years of its existence. The school aims to cater to the physical, psychological, educational and health needs of the children. Aruna Chetana has received an award from Women and Child Welfare Department, Govt of Karnataka, for being the best school for special needs children.
- Nele: It is a project that has a number of shelter homes for street children, rag pickers and destitute children. We started this project in the year 2000 with one center and 15 children. Today, Nele has 283 children in 10 centers in Bengaluru, Shimoga, Mysore, Tumkur and Bagalkote.
- Prasanna Counseling Center: We have been running a counseling center where hundreds of people avail psychiatric counseling free of cost every month. Reputed psychiatrists, doctors and specialists from centers such as the NIMHANS and Victoria Hospitals volunteer here every week. Trainings are also conducted for volunteers who wish to become counselors themselves.
- Child Guidance Center: We also conduct free counseling for children who require psychiatric counseling.
- Seva Kirana: Under this project, we have a number of non-formal schools for the children of slum dwellers across Bangalore. The project apart from providing education to these children also focuses on the holistic development of these children through cultural activities and sports.
- Vidya Nidhi: Through this project we offer scholarships to poor students to enable them complete their education.
- Samagra Shishu Shikshana: This project works towards providing comprehensive education to the children, mostly at the primary levels of schooling. The aim of this project is to help and guide the children in all their educational needs. Over a thousand children are being benefited through this project.
- Youth for Seva: It is a platform that engages the youth mostly college students and young professionals into different community development activities. Thousands of young people have been connected to different service projects through this initiative.
- Nele Swavalambana: Through this project, tailoring and other employment oriented training is provided to women and youth from the economically weaker sections of the society so that they can become self-reliant.
- Yoga Bharati: HSP has trained more than a thousand people all over Karnataka in the ancient practice of Yoga through special yoga camps and workshops based on the traditional Patanjali School of yoga.
HSP believes in investing in change-makers rather than in the change itself. We believe in creating dedicated volunteers and social entrepreneurs who can work on different existing projects and also start new projects of their own. Training of volunteers is also essential for the continuity, improvement and the growth of the social endeavor. We are planning a center at Yelhanka in North Bengaluru that has the infrastructure for training volunteers and social workers on a continuous basis. The permanent facility with all the modern amenities dedicated solely for volunteer training will help run the training programs on the sustained basis and with improvised methods. The proposed center shall be able to run training programs for over three hundred people and cater to 12 different types of trainings at a time, both occasional and continually run programs.
Our focus will be on inspiring new people to volunteer and on creating dedicated social workers.