Praiseworthy response to Corona crisis by RSS
by Jaibans Singh on 04 May 2020 6 Comments

As India continues with its disciplined and mature response to the Coronavirus crisis, Dr. Mohan Bhagwat, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Sarsanghchalak, in an online address on Sunday, April 26, called upon the organisation to stand united and help all needy persons without any discrimination whatsoever. Elaborating the concept of “Ekant Mein Atam Sadhna, Lokant Mein Paropkar”, Mohan ji said that the lockdown had undoubtedly restricted the activities of the swayamsevaks, but life goes on despite the lockdown and so do the functions of the Sangh. Formal activity has been curtailed but alternate activity is continuing.


The decision of complete lockdown was a very difficult one for any leader to take, especially in a democracy where people look upon such restrictions as an impingement of their freedom and liberty. Countries where leaders dithered in taking such a decision are now suffering horrifying consequences.


When Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the decision of the first lockdown from March 25 to April 14, the people reposed complete confidence in their leader and adhered to the guidelines in letter and spirit. They have done so in the second spell of lockdown too. The RSS was among the first to hail the decision as correct: the “steps taken by India’s leadership are an example for the developed nations”. The RSS immediately committed itself to seamless application of the decision with all resources at its disposal, within the rules.


The Sangh moved fast in evolving its strategy. On March 14, ten days before the Government decided on complete lockdown, the Sangh had already cancelled a scheduled three-day annual meeting of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), its highest decision-making body, to be held at Bengaluru from March 15 to 17. It was done to adhere to advisories that the Government had started issuing then.


This year, Ram Navami was expected to be observed in a special and grand celebration. But the Sangh and all Hindu religious organisations unanimously decided to halt the much longed for peoples’ participation in Ayodhya, birth place of Lord Ram, and across the country. The RSS leadership also denounced attempts by some vested interests to give the crisis a communal sheen by referring to the restriction as an impingement of their religious rights. The Sangh supported closure of all temples and places of religious activity and curtailed all initiatives being taken under its watch.


The lockdown brought with it some critical socio-economic challenges. Many outside their homes got stuck where they were. While those with means could absorb this difficulty, the migrant labour in different cities wanted to get back to their villages which could have caused tremendous damage through widespread infection. The daily wagers were left without work and resources, as were tribals, nomads and beggars. Even animals like monkeys, street dogs, cats, etc. that depended on food from humans, faced trouble. 


The Sangh immediately set in motion a country wide support system. Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi, national general secretary announced, “All swayamsevaks are urged to plan to form small teams and engage people on the need for cleanliness, health and awareness in society. They should also arrange for distribution of food materials to the needy”. He urged the cadres to be in regular contact with the local administration and public representatives to understand their expectations and provide necessary assistance, and fully cooperate in the implementation of the decisions taken by the government.


Welfare initiatives were conducted after close liaison with the administration and local leaders. As a first step, the organising committees in all states, cities and districts took care to restrict the number of volunteers working outdoors to the barest minimum. Proper passes for the volunteers were acquired. Those working outside were trained to maintain all prescribed medical norms in the strictest manner. People who were not working on ground came up liberally with financial support and organising of the food and essentials packets, etc.


Packets with essential items like rice, flour, pulses, sugar, oil, basic spices used in cooking, salt, tea, soap, were made and distributed to the needy nationwide. Cooked food was provided in places where the facility was not available. Helplines were established to note problems in specific areas and across the nation, and the information was exchanged in a fast and efficient manner. The main focus was on old people, students, children and those with serious health issues. Those requiring emotional support and motivation were spoken to and inspired to feel secure. Wherever the administration requested for items like masks, Sangh workers got down to producing them locally. Lakhs of masks have thus been provided; when hospitals called for blood, Sangh volunteers responded.


The Sangh did some sterling work in the domain of giving information about the medical norms to be followed. Everybody, especially those less educated, were told about the need to maintain physical distance, wash hands regularly, maintain cleanliness and other medical statutes. Social media, personal interactions, posters, loudspeaker messages and many other means were put to use for this purpose.


Absolutely no differentiation is made on grounds of caste, creed, type of work etc. Need is the only parameter considered. The vast experience that the organisation in extending social service during emergencies and natural calamities has been put to good use.


Punjab had a large number of Non Resident Indians (NRIs) visiting India at this time, from countries badly affected by the Virus. They needed to be accounted for and protected. Hence, Punjab adopted very stringent curfew-like lockdown conditions, and rightly so. But the poorer section of society was badly hit. In these circumstances, Sangh volunteers came forward with much needed assistance despite difficult conditions. The local Sangh leaders led from the front in all districts of the state.


From big cities like Amritsar, Jullundur, Ludhiana, Taran Taran and Bhatinda to smaller townships like Rajpura, Jaito, Muktsar, all places were covered in the relief effort. Going from place to place, Sangh volunteers gave their personal phones as helpline numbers for immediate contact. The seamless cooperation between administration, social workers of all gurdwaras, Sangh volunteers and other organisations led to an admirable control of the situation which could otherwise have spun out of control.


The Coronavirus has brought strong developed nations to their knees. The strength of a nation is established by its response to a crisis. In this regard, India is being looked upon as a leading light for the world to emulate.


(Jaibans Singh is a columnist and author)  

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