Friday, June 27, 2014

Sewa Sandesh

June 2014

The annual training camp of Sewa Bharati Tamil Nadu concluded with an impressive public function at Korattur Vivekananda Vidyalaya in Chennai onMay 26. The trainees demonstrated various physical activities like yoga, Kollattam, Bhajans, games, etc. Shri Sai Sundar, an industrialist, while presiding over the function emphasised on collective strength, which is bigger than individual strength.
Shri HS Govinda, Kshetra Pracharak Pramukh, emphasised on sewa attitude and explained why a healthy society is required. He also explained what constituted sewa. He said sewa should not be driven by pity gains but should be viewed as a duty. When it is viewed in this manner, sewa becomes a duty. He said we must perform sewa with the objective that it should help the deprived section of the society. A total of 74 trainees attended the camp.
207 Families of Chero Tribe of Rohtas dist. of Bihar has no rehabilitation package and now they are bound to live without roof in these hot days and in coming rainy season. These families were displaced by Govt. of Bihar during implementation of Durgawati River Dam. Families were assured of housing and other rehabilitation facilities by the Govt. of Bihar. All families have been struggling for last five years for their rehabilitation.  About 65 families of Badalgarh have been provided Indira Aawas but windows, doors and roofs have  not yet been completed. Two hand pumps  were provided to villagers which can fulfill only drinking water, leaving out their animal and Poultry needs.
Addressing a meeting on 8th June under a mango tree in the temperature of 48 degees Vice President of Akhil Bhartiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram Shri Kripa Prasad Singh and Zonal Organiser ( Jharkhand, Bihar, Nepal & U.P.) Shri Mahrang Oraon assured of Vanvasi brethren to fight upto its last stage for their rehabilitation .They assured them of utensils, mats & other essential materials to be provided from ABVKA. The persons who graced the occasion were Shri Raghuwansh Prasad Narayan, Dist. President and Vibhag Sangathan Mantri Shri Ram Nagina Pandey. They were assured  that their complaint will be forwarded to  the Govt. of Bihar and the President of India.
Second day, on 9th June leaders of ABVKA visited Athan village on Rohtasgarh hilltop. Five thousand vanvasi bretheren from 67 villages gathered to pay the tribute to vanvasi freedom fighters like Birsa Munda, Jatra Bhagat, Budhu Bir etc who fought for the rights of vanvasi bretheren of Bharat. ABVKA has been working in this area for last 10 years.  Ashram workers are running 65 OTS ( One Teacher Schools), 30 Village Health Centers, 30 Eklabya Khelkud Prakalp, 18 Awareness Centres & 10 Women Empowerment Centres in this area.   Very essential needs of the day like electricity, housing and drinking water facility are not available for the families on this hilltop. Thanks to forest officers who got success to preserve forest of this area despite all odds from last 10 years. Students of these families are getting education in the hostels of Kalyan Ashram such as Jashpur, Varanasi, Kanpur and Jharkhand. Sabita, Babita &  Ashmani are few students of 10th class who participated in this meeting and requested Kalyan Ahram workers to think about the future of students like them.
Shri Doma Singh, Shri Chandru Oraon, Shri Rajesh Oraon, Shri Jhari Singh Kherwar and 18 other local tribal leaders participated in this meeting and requested Kalyan Ashram officials to take care of their families. It was decided to celebrate Rohtasgarh Utsav on 31st January and 1st February 2015 at Rohtasgarh fort.
In our country many brothers and sisters of our society are living below the poverty line. Lakhs of people are working in tea gardens in Assam, Tripura and Bengal, unfortunately still they are struggling hard to earn for daily bread. Many youths have dream to get married but due to poverty they could not afford such ceremonial rituals. So, many of them prefer to use short cut of Gandharva Vivah. But society does not give social status to such couples. Kalyan Ashram came forward to help such couples through Samuhik Vivah  (Group Marriage). From last one decade Ashram has been conducting such marriages in Bengal and Assam, which gives the couple social status. Urban units of organization afford all the expenses and offer gifts to the couples.
On 25th May, Samuhik Vivah  (Group Marriage) was conducted at Salibari near Siliguri of North Bengal  where 101 couples got married. All the couples came along with their relatives and villagers with great enthusiasm.  They wore traditional dresses. All the rituals were conducted with complete sanctity. After rituals couples visited temple and had blessings. All these couples got social status and honour. Everybody was happy and enjoyed delicious dinner. Such functions strengthen social fabric and accelerate the process of social harmony. Such programme was also organised at Guwahati, Assam where 19 couples got married.

The biggest drawback with the present model of development is that it has failed to ensure public participation in planning and execution of development projects. This is the reason majority of the projects fail to cater to the needs of the target audience. In order to change the situation and also to bring Bharatiya model of development in reality with active participation of people, Pune based YOJAK Centre for Research and Strategic Planning for Sustainable Development has come out with a unique idea, which can really reshape the destiny of villagers. With the help of some voluntary organisations in Central India’s Maharashtra and Gujarat regions it has created a band of educated youth who instead of migrating to cities for jobs owned the responsibility of developing their respective villages. During the last three years, YOJAK and its associated voluntary organisations have mobilised over 2,300 youths, mostly Vanvasis, to take up this challenge. The man leading this silent revolution is Dr Gajanan Dange, national president of YOJAK.
The Vanvasi region of Central India, beginning from Southern Gujarat to West Bengal, is among the highly underdeveloped regions. About three years back, YOJAK started a project, Madhya Bharat Vananchal Samriddhi Yojna, to change the development scenario in this region. Mobilising and empowering some voluntary organisations, it started studying the existed methods of development including their impact on natural resources. The second aspect of the study was how to take corrective steps that can meet the local needs. Third was implementation of the new sustainable approach. Following the ideals of Pandit Deendayalji, who said development should be based on janchetana (local conscience) and the government’s role should be of just a guide, motivator and supporter, YOJAK emphasised on this Bharatiya concept of development purely focusing on the needs and aspirations of the people of this region.
The model is being implemented with the help of voluntary organisations working on ground by mobilising local youths through Yuva Chetna Jagran Programmes. Before organising such programmes, the organisations' activists met local youth and motivated them to join the programme. During discussions they also tried to know what corrective steps they want in their areas. During the study it was found that majority of the educated youth want to stay in their respective villages, if provided better knowhow and help to live a meaningful life. In order to help the selected youth understand the whole concept, the first Yuva Chetna Jagran Programme was organised at Krishi Vigyan Kendra Nandurbar, Maharashtra, on October 1, 2013. The programme was held with the help of five organisations—Dr Hedgewar Sewa Samiti, Deendayal Vanvasi Sewa Sanstha, Eklavya Adivasi Sewa Sanstha, Bahuddeshiya Birsa Munda Adivasi Sewa Sanstha and Vanvasi Utkarsh Samiti. Prior to the programme, all these organisations had deeply studied Nandurbar region for several months.
A total of 1,500 youths had expressed their desire in writing to stay in their villages and sought guidance for taking up activities. Finally, 1,003 youths turned to the programme on their own expenses. They were first apprised of the work being done by the associated voluntary organisations. Then they were told that the problems which they find are basically the problems of all 6 lakh villages. In the third session they were apprised of the successful projects of rural development going on in their regions. They were also told about the availability of technology for resolving their problems. At a session they were administered an oath for taking up developmental activity in their villages. In the last session, their responsibility towards their villages and family was reintegrated through 'Kartavya Bodh'. The participants returned home with renewed vigour and hope.
Another similar function was held in Songarh in Tapi district of Southern Gujarat on March 13, 2014. Hosted by Dr Ambedkar Vanvasi Kalyan Trust, Surat, the function was supported by Dang Vikas Parishad, Sarvamangal Trust and Manasi Vikas Sanstha also. It was attended by 1,300 youth.
At both the events, an exhibition was organised highlighting the local knowhow. Basically, the instruments which can reduce the drudgery in farming activities were prominently displayed. The exhibition also displayed how the indigenous seeds can be preserved and used.
Both these events were also attended by some achievers who have done wonderful work for rural development. In Nandurbar, the villagers who stopped a river at 18 places and changed the farming system in the entire area were invited. Similarly, in Songarh a community representative who is managing forest based livelihood programme was invited. Many similar successful experiments were displayed before them.
After analysing the information provided by the youth during the events, YOJAK started work on providing them technological support through local partners. Every individual case is being studied by experts. If somebody is involved in cotton production, he has to be helped in that way. “Since the Kharif season is beginning from June we have started imparting them training as to how they can increase production. The work has begun at rapid pace,” points out Dr Dange.
“An army of 2,300 youths has already started fighting against the faulty model of development. They are serious to take it to new heights. They are visiting the projects already going on in their regions to have first hand and practical knowledge. In Nandurbar, the youths were apprised of the work being done in Baripada Village where the villagers preserved a forest of 1,100 acre. Now youths from eight villages have visited that village to see and study the work. This shows the post programme enthusiasm among these youths.
When asked how the idea of starting this experiment clicked, Dr Dange says: “While visiting village to village in central India during the last several years we realised that participation of people in present process of development is very less. It is due to the lack of ownership spirit among local people that the impact of majority projects is minimal. We met many officials who too are worried over it. Our overall objective is to increase the people's participation in development process.”
The experiment has given a new dimension to rural development process, where the people think they should not continue to depend upon the government agencies for resolving their issues rather they have to be drivers in development. This can go a long way in curbing migration from rural areas to cities in search of jobs. 
With the inspiration of VHP, the Bhagini Nivedita Sewa Nyas, started a sewa project, cutting-tailoring centre, in jhuggi clusters of Dwarka in West Delhi. Inaugurating the project, vice president of the VHP Delhi and general secretary of the Nyas Shri Mahavir Prasad Gupta said helping those who are deprived due to any reason is the responsibility of every well to do person of the society. He pointed out that the VHP already runs over 100 sewa projects in different parts of Delhi. These projects include health centres, cutting-tailoring centres, computer training centres, beauticians, bal sanskar kendras, etc. The new project was started at JJ Colony of B block in Dwarka sector 3. Shri Ram Bhagat Rajaura, noted social activist, presided over the function.
Microsoft offers Virender Raika, son of a labourer, Rs 4.85-crore annual package for his extraordinary anti-hacking skills.
He is a golden boy who never had a silver spoon in his mouth. He had dreams, but no wings. Yet he flies high. Twenty-one-year-old Virender Raika, who worked as a hawker to fund his studies, has developed an extraordinary anti-hacking software which has earned him a plum job at Microsoft.
The whopping Rs 4.85 crore annual package offered by the software giant comes as an add-on for a lad who couldn’t go to the IIT — despite getting through the entrance — as he had no money.
Born in Pehowa village in Kurukshetra, Virender says the going was always tough for him. “After my father who works as a labourer fell sick, I had to take up the job of a hawker. I soon realised that the money won't suffice. So, I started giving Physics tuitions,” says the boy who was in Panchkula to interact with students.
A class X topper, Virender did part-time jobs to fund his Class 12 education. He qualified a scholarship entrance to study further and even got through the IIT, but couldn’t pursue it due to lack of funds.
Quiz him on his anti-hacking project and his eyes light up. “The idea to develop an anti-hacking system struck me while I was watching a movie. I saw a girl hacking into a system and then I thought why not develop a system that has a foolproof security. There are ways to hack into a system but no permanent way to secure it. So by working on various cyber theories, I made an anti-hacking system,” says the tech-wizard.
Virender gave a demo of his project through video-conferencing to a group of expert hackers at Microsoft’s office in Hyderabad. The Chief Financial officer of the Microsoft, Peter Klein, who was keenly observing the demo online, was so impressed by Virender’s skills that he offered him a job straightaway. The Haryana boy, who is pursing his BTech from IGNOU, has been told to join in November.
On his future plans, Virender says he wants to open his own company in India. “I want to do something for my country. We are so dependent on the US for technology. I want to turn the tide,” he says. Virender’s father Gyan Chand and mother Shinder still don’t know what exactly their son has developed. “We both are illiterate. We just know that Virender has got a job of 4.85 crore and companies from China and Japan are pursuing him,” says Gyan Chand.
Not letting her disability come in the way of reaching her goals has become Sarika Jain's second nature. The polio stricken Odisha woman has cleared the civil service examination in her first attempt, two years after qualifying the tough Chartered Accountancy exam.
Sarika , a differently abled girl from Kantabanji town in Odisha's Balangir district, has cleared the UPSC examination 2013 with a  rank of  527 among the 1,122 candidates.
Jain, who was afflicted with polio in her right leg with 50% disability since the age of two despite taking polio drops, hails from Kantabanji, a small town in Balangir district, Odisha. Her father Sadhuram Jain is a small time trader of sanitary fittings.
Third among three sisters and a brother, Sarika studied in local Saraswati Sishu Mandir and later completed her bachelor's degree in commerce from Kantabanji Women's College
Hyderabad unit of Vijnana Bharati organised a science camp at Saraswati Sishu Mandir, Badangapet for children studying from 6th to 12th standard from May 16 to 18. The camp was inaugurated by Shri Syam Prasad, coordinator, Vijnana Bharati, Andhra Pradesh describing the essence of scientific temper within India throughout ages created totally different outlook near to the people and provided solutions to day to day problems. He stressed on the importance of developing scientific solutions to medical health care and looking at job creation. The students had the opportunity to experiment with more than 50 experiments on physical sciences. Focus was on learning by doing. The topics covered were sound, optics, magnetism, electronics and Thermodynamics. Many scientists working with DRDO, NGRI, IICT, Infosys also participated as resource persons.
Sewa International brings together Hindu Australians for the rehabilitation of Dev Bhoomi
On Saturday June 7th about 500 people from Sydney’s Hindu community attended a fund raising Cultural Night event at Bowman Hall, Blacktown to help Hindu bandhus in Uttarakhand to rebuild their lives after the devastating floods  last year. Leading music and dance artistes from the Bharatiya community in Australia also gave their  valuable time and performed free for this charitable cause.
There was also a special guest who had flown in from India for the event who was none other than  Shri Shyam Parande  International Coordinator ,Sewa International. Shri Parande  who is supervising the rehabilitation projects run by Sewa International in Uttarakhand was received and honoured at the function on behalf of the Hindu community by Shri Rajesh Venkataramaiah - President, Sewa  Australia. Shri Parande  who held the audience spellbound in his inspiring speech  remarked that despite the total loss of livelihood, they had encountered, the affected people in Uttarakhand are still positive and in fact did not want any handouts but just opportunities for them to work hard and build new futures.
The program was actually a culmination of a year’s work starting from July 2013, when a number of volunteers from about 15 Hindu and Bharatiya organisations in Sydney grouped together and formed the Australian Uttarakhand Relief / Rehabilitation Fund (AURF) to raise funds to help the  rehabilitation programme.  This group was coordinated and brought together by Sewa International Australia.
The group made direct appeal for donations to the wider public, organised a Bhajan Sandhya (Devotional Music night) program at the ISSO Swamy Narayan Mandir in August 2013 and published a souvenir to raise funds from Sydney’s Bharatiya business community.
With the great community support in Sydney, AURF has raised close to $70,000 (approximately Rs 37.1 lakhs) which will be sent to Sewa International Bharat for the funding of a Computer Training Centre in Chandrapuri village to provide computer related job skills to youth.
The Hindu community in Australia have therefore adopted this centre in an example of direct action being taken by the community to help their brothers and sisters in Uttarakhand. The Hindu community in Australia is known for its diversity of views and multiplicity of organisations representing many different parts of the community, and so bringing 15 different organisations together was not easy.
However, a unique set of volunteers, drawn from these various organisations in conjunction with karyakarthas from Sewa International Australia worked in harmony and demonstrated true Sanghatan mein ShaktiSpeaking at the function, Australian Member of Parliament and the shadow Parliamentary Secretary for immigration and foreign affairs Matt Thistlethwaite remarked on how the Bharatiya community in Australia was strengthening Australia’s overseas development and disaster relief objectives through such activities. He also remarked that the Hindu community through this initiative has brought the people of Australia and Bharat together for greater cooperation.
(Contributed by Anand Sundaresan- Karyavah, Sewa International Australia )

Why I adore Uttarakhand?
                                                     - Shyam Parande
The images of the horrific floods last year in Uttarakhand hang on our memory more than any other natural calamity. Everyone said this was simply irreparable. The severity of the floods and the images we witnessed on our TV screens will live with us and would be recalled whenever there is a flood.  The floods killed more than 30000 people, property worth Crores was lost, businesses lost, not only crops but the rich farm lands were totally washed off, educational institutions washed away, whatever came in the way of the flooding waters was washed away, the loss looked unfathomable.
A question arises whether the human society can sustain through such natural calamity and still cling on to the place, the venue of disaster not even a year before? Yes, here is a society which has not only left the disaster behind but resolved to move ahead without a grumble, no grievance against the Himalayas or the rivers or not even the government which performed pathetically, or rather didn’t perform at all. Their faith in the Mother Ganga or Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badarinath remains impermeable. No place for a whimper. The number of pilgrims a year after has dwindled to almost minuscule as compared to earlier aggregate. We the progressive world, do not have the courage to take up the yatras or go up Himalayas, playing safe in our life, people in those villages which were affected last year have not given up the hope. Rather their buoyancy is experienced when one reaches out to them.
And what a resilient society is this, the loss and pain has been accepted without a whine. No one complaining about the losses, without a grumble or a grievance, the natural smile that we observed on every face welcoming us, was one that left us speechless. This is impossible, we said to ourselves. The spirit of Uttarakhand has not been lost rather it has levitated to Himalayan heights. This was amply experienced during the next couple of days of our travel through the state while talking to various people who were themselves flood affected. I humbly salute this courageous society for their resilience, their perseverance, their diligence against the toughest climatic and environmental challenges. They are the unsung heroes of real life facing toughest challenges through the din of the day & night. The society in general is deeply spiritual. They love and respect the environment and they have stronger faith and religious beliefs. They are at peace with the problems and challenges of the Himalayas. We realized that these are the strengths of this society which despite last year’s devastating floods, clinging to their smaller farmlands, tinier houses and high Himalayan ranges with those melodically flowing rivers, blooming flowers year around, chirping of the birds, and all that make life pleasant.
Why these people live here to face Himalayan challenges year after year, thinks every traveller, as one watches couple of houses or huts atop the hills. Cannot they come down to the plains and lead cosier life like us? That sounds logical to everyone but not to the Pahadi, as they are known, for facing challenges is their way of life. We interacted with different groups of people from different parts of the flood affected districts to understand their love and liking for the environment they are born into. Their respect for the nature is only to be experienced.   
The first encounter with a local group of youth that had gathered for an informal interaction with us bowled me out clean with their zeal, enthusiasm, know-how of the traditionally available knowledge of Himalayan bio-sphere- environment and ecology. I could not stop myself from pulling out my notebook, wanting to note down every detail that the youth were sharing about the potential of the “Pahad”- the Himalayas. Agriculture, horticulture, spices, herbs, animals, birds and a whole lot of loads of information and know-how about the local potential products was gushing out from the group, making me look dwarf. I satiated myself with the experiences of the youth that were like living catalogues of knowledge. Amazing, I felt. Am I supposed to guide this group? Precisely I cannot, but I have to. Except for some experience and organizational skills I had very little to share with them. Rest is all available here despite the modern day challenges like transportation, technology & marketing, etc. 
Interaction with locals was enough to generate enthusiasm. Like any other disaster, we were planning for counselling and now the challenge is do we need to!  We came to the conclusion that the affected society has an indigenous method of counselling based on culture, tradition and of course the spirit. Their Bhakti and Shraddha are their strengths, while spiritualism is unique. Every one we interacted asking about the disaster was looking forward to better life, and to work harder to achieve that rather than being carping about their loss and inaction on part of government or whatever that might be. We trekked across the river Mandakini which we had to cross on a makeshift bridge to reach the village called Haat. The Panchayat President of this village Smt. Santosh,  is a  normal homemaker, very soft spoken and pleasant person. She is a graduate who manages her home as well as affairs of the village. The villager respects her for her simplicity and straight forward approach. She gets her children to assist her in cooking and offered us hot crispy Rotes- a local crunchy dish. She was open to ideas and shared all the information with the visitors without any inhibition. Her husband is also a graduate and is a taxi driver by profession. Smt. Santosh takes care of their family agriculture apart from village affairs and does not miss to harvest vegetables in kitchen garden.  
Another lady that I should not miss mention is Smt. Baradevi, a born leader with meagre educational background. She runs a federation of all the Self Help Groups in Chandrapuri village and surrounding villages. Her self-confidence and dynamism are her strengths and she does not miss to assert that. She took over the dais to speak about her experiments in farming and everyone was enjoying her speech. We were surprised to note that she guides 191 Self Help Groups (SHGs) under the federation she leads. This federation implements the programs of World Bank. She manages to maintain all the registers and records for her federation with huge membership, including minutes of the meetings. This lady maintains properly organised registers and records, all the database of the members of the SHGs, facilitates loans from World Bank drawn schemes. She started her self Help Group with Rs.10 per day saving and now has grown to Rs.500/- per month. She has impeccable record of repaying the loans without failure. Villages of Uttarakhand still continue with age old practise of community living. Community cooking is normal during marriages and other family affairs. Temple festivals and other social gathering also are celebrated together and responsibilities are shared. However, women support each other during their health problems.
Another woman we met in Chandrapuri had to shift to the poly house in her farm as her house was washed away by the floods. In last 10 months or so, she has rebuilt her own house with whatever aid she received from the government and has shifted her family to the new house. She takes care of cattle at home while she has to care for her school going children. The women are indefatigable and work from morn till night without a pause. Besides all the hard work the womenfolk put in, wife beating is a common problem in all the villages. This is the saddest part of the story, I felt. The Pahadi society psychologically seems to be very stubborn because of the challenges they face in their day-to-day life. Their physical stamina and mental tenacity is worth appreciation. Health facility in the Himalayas is scarce and the paucity of Doctors is experienced all over, especially lady doctors are the rarest of all, women suffering more. Calcium and Iron deficiency is most common among the villagers and skin diseases are very common.
Education is of prime importance in every family and girls are a step ahead of boys in education. Despite the havoc last year no student has lost the academic year. Most of the youth we came across are graduates or post graduates and women are no way lagging behind in education despite scant educational facilities at their disposal and worst transportation available. Their positive approach towards education like Swami Vivekananda said, “Education is for gaining knowledge and not just for livelihood”, is being put to practice here in this state. We could observe that girls make up for more than 50% if number in every school that we interacted with. It was heartening to see that the last year’s disaster did not hamper the marriages and celebration was usual. Village community and relatives share the cost of weddings making it more joyful. It was quite refreshing to note that dowry is not a common practise here but the in-laws voluntarily might help the young to establish family. Joint families are preferred in the Himalayan ranges, it seems, at least more so in Uttarakhand and we did not come across a ‘nuclear’ family during this tour.
Modern junk food is making its impact on the life here with emergence of tourism as a major source of employment yet people have not lost the traditional food that is nutritionally loaded and best suited for the local climatic conditions and terrain. However, an effort to make the younger generation aware of the advantages and benefits of the locally grown food is essential. Spices and herbs are in abundance but society should not lose this in daily intake for enriching diet. We had a great treat with a family where the menu was– “Manduve ki rotee (close to Ragi), Lingode kee subzee, Gahath ki Daal (a cereal that is a little different from Toovar dal), Zigoure ki kheer (some kind close to Barley)”. Cooking this menu might have been laborious but it was a Pahadi treat in its best sense, rather also in tang & flavour. The natural “energy drink” made out of “Burans” flowers was as enticing as it can be and I would not miss an opportunity to sip it again.  
This state Uttarakhand can be an organic development model for whole of the country with its unseasonal cash crops and rich horticulture, added to flora & fauna. The beauty of the high Himalayas is always alluring but the call of the Pahadi society is also appealing and fascinating with those smiles. The Pahad is calling and the Pahadis more!
Food For Thought:

Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.
-Mark Twain

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