As India fights coronavirus, how the RSS is playing a significant role across the country in combating the crisis.
On 2 April, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi's address on the occasion of Ramnavami was completely and pointedly focused on the organisation's continuing work against Covid-19 in India. Within it, Joshi largely stressed on ensuring the well-being of the large migrant workforce.
He said that people of the migrant workforce need to be assured that the society is with them in the tough times.
A day after Joshi's address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on a similar emotion. In his address to the nation on (Friday) 3 April, he said that the poor, who are witnessing difficulties and uncertainties during the lockdown, have to be taken towards hope.
Clearly, Modi's appeal for the next unifying symbolic gesture involving the public (which would be expressed by the use of lights at homes on 5 April) during this leg of the lockdown has the well-being of the weaker sections as the core of his concerns.
Joshi asserted that because of the feeling of insecurity and due to the lack of trust, people who make India's massive workforce, are preferring to move towards their homes after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown. He was referring to the issues, conditions and situations surrounding the working migrant force. It is facing difficulties on account of the 21-day lockdown — mostly pertaining to needs and uncertainty.
Joshi said that wherever the workers are, the society must take care of them. He mentioned the work of RSS volunteers towards fighting the effects of the Covid-19 on the poor as a 'bhaav' — an emotion and expression. He said that this was needed to overcome the next set of days in the lockdown in India's serious fight against the coronavirus.
This year, before the Covid-19 scenario came knocking, Ramnavami was expected to be observed in a special and grand celebration. This year, the iconic idol of Ram Lalla has been able to come out of the tent over a proper sthhapana ceremony that took place at the Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya.
People's participation was the first thing that the Hindu organisations struck off during March — in Ayodhya and across the country.
With the Covid-19 situation demanding a focused approach to serving people, RSS took a leading role among Hindu organisations in spreading the work and word on social distancing and, most importantly, in helping the weaker sections brave the changes brought in by the countrywide lockdown.
In his Ramnavami address, Joshi was also communicating with the one lakh RSS workers in action, currently, across the country. They are involved in helping people of the weaker sections and the poor.
They are looking after their food needs, providing them essential goods in kits and by providing them moral and emotional support to overcome difficulties over strict adherence to the norms of social distancing.
Workers of the RSS were also seen at the forefront to help fight the set of crises facing the migrant workers arising from their exodus from Delhi.
The RSS, known for extending social service during emergencies and natural calamities (including the Uttarakhand floods of 2013 and the Kerala floods of 2018), is on a nationwide campaign to ensure that the needy receive both tangible and intangible support to push back uncertainties.
After the nationwide lockdown was announced, volunteers in Delhi and different parts of the country came up with the most essential element in their work of extended help. Essential grocery kits.
These kits have rice, flour, dal, sugar, oil, basic spices used in cooking, salt, tea, soap and bathing soap bundled together. They are being distributed among the poor by RSS volunteers.
RSS-inspired organisation Seva Bharati, too, has plunged into action and is assisting in communication and distribution of masks.
Seva Bharati volunteers are extending thought and action towards Covid-19 frontline warriors.
Rajesh Padmar, an activist from RRS, says "we are providing kits only to the economically poor. One kit will include items for four members of a family for a period of about five days. It includes rice, toor dal, oil, onion and potato. In some areas we provided sanitisers. In some areas we provided sanitary pads. Some 20,000 such kits have been distributed in Bengaluru."
In Bengaluru, Padmar points out, the MPs and MLAs are catering to the needs of the aam aadmi — those who need assistance. The RSS is looking at 'only' the needs of the poor. To pad up the material, they requested for donations.
"We got overwhelming support from the society. Whatever we have got from the society, we are donating to the poor," said Padmar.
According to Padmar there are a few important aspects related to the distribution work. One: volunteers. Two: restricting the number of enthusiastic workers keeping in mind the emergency.
Padmar adds, "we have asked them (volunteers) to wear masks, gloves, and they have to maintain social distancing. We have made arrangements for passes for the volunteers with help from the police."
Padmar tells Swarajya that RSS volunteers are also receiving phone calls from outside their own states for help. Among people seeking help from outside the states of the action of different volunteers, are senior citizens (people above 90 years of age), students, and people fighting serious health issues.
At some places there is no facility to cook. Cooked food is provided to the people living there. Essential grocery for such people is provided for the next 10-15 days.
Workers of RSS made a strong move towards making help reach another section and breaking societal taboos. On Friday, ANI reported that RSS workers distributed essential goods to the sex workers at Delhi's GB Road area.
For this, the RSS had done its homework of identifying the workers to be able to hand over the needed amount of essential items.
Delhi: RSS workers distribute ration among sex workers in GB Road. "We prepared a list of 986 sex workers living here & categorized them into 250 joints (groups of workers living together). Today, we distributed 250 kits," says Anil Gupta, Joint General Secretary, Delhi RSS. pic.twitter.com/09grZBCx1Q— ANI (@ANI) April 3, 2020
There are times when RSS volunteers realise that people they are serving also need some emotional support and motivation to fight the lockdown.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (in his statement a day after the lockdown was announced) and Joshi (in his Ramnavami address) have asked the volunteers to observe social distancing strictly and to ensure that they do not break the government's protocol in the fight against Covid-19.
Maintaining social distance, the volunteers provide the much needed support, and convey a firm message to the people that they are not alone in this. How is this done? Padmar adds, "a feeling of togetherness and familial warmth is shared and conveyed through motivational words."