Our country is currently battling an epidemic, the likes of which we have never seen in this century. The central and state governments have been working on war footing to contain the spread of the deadly Chinese virus. Likewise, RSS has always been at the forefront in extending crucial help whenever there was a disaster anywhere in the nation.
Similar to the RSS, its affiliated organisation, Sewa Bharati, has also been working relentlessly, extending a helping hand to the marginalised at the time of this crisis.
The organisation Sewa Bharati is headquartered in Delhi, from where the relief work is being carried out across the country. From distributing food packets to manufacturing masks at war footing and reaching out and distributing at places facing a scarcity to distributing bed sheets and blankets to providing basic medicines, Sewa Bharati cadres have been in the forefront in extending crucial help to the needy at the time of this pandemic. Moreover, almost 2.10 lakh cadres have been reaching out to the remotest corners of the country in order to extend their assistance.
Founded in 1989, this RSS offshoot works in the area of health care and education under the aegis of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It has traditionally worked among the impoverished sections of society, slums, resettlement colonies etc. This organisation came to being after the then RSS supremo Balasaheb Deoras addressed a Delhi gathering in 1979 to start a wing that will exclusively work among the poor and vulnerable.
According to the all India general secretary of ‘Sewa Bharti’, Shravan Kumar, the organization does not see which state are they working in or what is the caste-religion or identity of the person who needs help. He told that the organization is specially engaged in reaching places where even government assistance have not reached.
There are 2.1 lakh volunteers engaged in work across the country under the banner of ‘Sewa Bharati’. The organization has contact with a total of 1200 institutions in India and is working closely with all of them. Together with these 1200 institutions, it is being ensured that no area across the country is missed at the time of this pandemic.
Shravan said that he has direct access to almost 26 lakh people, who are being provided with food by the organisation.
The organisation has provided different helpline numbers for every state. If a person is in distress or gets stuck in any sort of problem, then he/she can call these numbers and ask for help. People stranded in railway stations and bus stops are being rescued by the Sewa Bharati workers.
The organisation has the highest number of volunteers in Kerala. There are about 1 lakh volunteers of ‘Sewa Bharati’ who are engaged in public services in the state alone. It has stepped up to provide help to the health workers of Kerala state, reeling under the threat of the spread of the deadly Chinese virus. Sewa Bharati had on March 23 sanitized a building which is to be used as isolation ward at Kodugallur in Thrissur district. The workers had distributed masks to the people in Kerala’s Ranni district which had become one of the epicentres of the pandemic in the state.
It is imperative to note here that despite the fact that Kerala’s Left government has been in perpetual war with RSS, the organisation has been working selflessly in the state to serve the people.
In Delhi, the organisation has been distributing over 10000 food packets a day. According to R Ramanathan, State president of Sewa Bharati, more than 100 volunteers are involved in preparing the food and distributing the packets to those in need including migrant workers. “The RSS workers have collected details of people who are in need of food in the city,” he said. Volunteers distribute the packets from 8.30 am to 2.30 pm.
Almost 5,000 cadres have been feeding 75,000 Delhiites on a daily basis. So far the food they are providing is made out of 45 kitchens spread across Delhi. Once the food packets are ready, their zonal teams distribute among the needy in their area.
Sewa Bharati has also been distributing milk and beverages to patients and hospital staff at Coimbatore Medical College Hospital in the morning, according to Mr Ramanathan.
45 kitchens of Sewa Bharati are functioning in Delhi alone. The advice of doctors and government is also being taken care of while rendering these services. Social distancing is being followed. All the volunteers have been instructed to wear masks and gloves along with frequent usage of hand sanitizer while distributing as well as preparing the food at the kitchen.
Their cadres are also collaborating with temple trusts like the Jhandewalan Temple in the national capital where hundreds and thousands of meals are served each day.
Interestingly, mainstream media channel AajTak, had falsely called food preparation by Jhandewalan Temple Trust and Sewa Bharati volunteers for needy as Kejriwal’s “Community Kitchen”.
AajTak showed video footage and pictures of food preparation, falsely attributing to it to Arvind Kejriwal, claiming that the AAP government had commissioned a “Community Kitchen” in Delhi for providing food daily to about 10,000 hungry and needy people in Delhi. The report extolled Arvind Kejriwal for taking “exceptional measures” to provide food and shelters to the migrant workers in Delhi.
However, the video footage and images shared by AajTak were not from Arvind Kejriwal’s “Community Kitchen”. The photos and video were of the food preparation done by Jhandewalan Temple Trust and members of Sewa Bharati which was to be served to the needy and hungry people amid the coronavirus lockdown in the National Capital.
Speaking to OpIndia, one of the full-time members of Sewa Bharati, Bhupendra claimed that the kitchen has been set up since March 22 where daily food for 30,000 people is being prepared.
Most importantly, it has been providing ration materials to 986 women living in the Redlight areas of Delhi, for whom, in the current scenario, it is becoming extremely difficult to make ends meet as their savings are very low and they depend on daily earnings.
Sewa Bharati also emphasises on the remote border areas of the North-east, as it takes time for the government aides to reach these areas. Bedsheets and blankets are being distributed at railway stations in the North-East. Clean water is being delivered to the people. They are also being made aware of the government and medical guidelines. Many students of North-East who study in Sewa Bharati schools have been brought to their home safely at the time of this crisis by these volunteers.
Sewa Bharati volunteers are also serving on the Burma border. Through video conferencing, the officials and volunteers keep in touch with each other to make sure the work goes on smoothly. Special attention is being given to the economically weaker areas.
Apart from all this, Sewa Bharati is also producing domestic masks. Almost 1 lakh masks have been distributed in Jammu alone. The organisation is daily getting more than twelve hundred masks from its three units for distribution among the needy.
Masks are being prepared at various places. Kerala has the highest number of masks distributed by the organisation after Jammu. However, Shravan says that his organization has an equal focus on all states and is trying to reach out to as many people as possible.
On March 24, a video had gone viral which showed how RSS cadres were seen cleaning hospital beds and brooming floors in a bid to help the hospital authorities.
The organisation is focused on the poor and marginalised who lack awareness about the COVID-19 and ways to prevent it. As such, soaps, sanitizers and protective masks were distributed among the masses. Preventive measures were also discussed during the interaction between Swayamsevaks and the local people.
“Whenever there has been a natural calamity or a disaster, the RSS’ volunteers have always been on the forefront to help society deal with it. We are carrying forward this tradition though this time it appears to be the biggest-ever challenge we have faced as a society”, a functionary said on the condition of anonymity.