New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has called off its shakhas — or gatherings of volunteers — in light of PM Narendra Modi’s call for a national lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19.
In a video address issued from Nagpur, where the RSS is based, on the Hindu New Year Wednesday, sarsanghchalak (chief) Mohan Bhagwat said volunteers must follow the norms of social distancing to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.
“India as well as the world is embroiled in a war against this global crisis. It is the responsibility of the volunteers to do their bit now,” he said.
“Today is the Sankalp Diwas (resolution day) as we have to stay resolute in performing our duty and social responsibilities at the same time to emerge victorious in our fight against coronavirus,” he added.
Highlighting the point that maintaining social distance is important, Bhagwat said the daily shakhas — where volunteers pray together and participate in exercises such as self-defence training — can be performed within one’s homes with family members.
“Our work can be done properly by following the 21-day lockdown. Programmes can be done in different ways. Dr Hedgewar (RSS co-founder K.B. Hedgewar) used to say that only if all swayamsevaks (volunteers) sleep and get up in the morning, can the work of the Sangh be done,” he added.
“The Sangh’s shakhas were shut twice but our work never stopped. Even while the lockdown is in place, we can carry out the work of the Sangh. We can pray with our family members,” Bhagwat said.
Stressing the need to maintain social distance, Bhagwat said coronavirus could be eliminated only through community discipline. He added that national interest should be pursued during this difficult time.
“In this struggle, the main point is to follow all rules and be disciplined. Medicines, other essential items, services will help in the fight. However, infection takes place due to contact… To break the chain of spread, we need to make social distancing a success and it is our responsibility as a society and the Sangh to stick to discipline,” he added.
‘RSS volunteers helping in relief work’
Prime Minister Modi has announced a 21-day lockdown in the country starting Wednesday to check the spread of Covid-19, a global pandemic that had led to thousands of deaths worldwide since it was first detected in China last December. In the absence of any vaccination for the infectious disease, social distancing is believed to be key to preventing transmission.
In his speech, Bhagwat mentioned that shakhas had been called off twice earlier. According to an RSS functionary, this was in 1948, when the Sangh was banned, and during the Emergency.
Bhagwat called on volunteers “to make sure they don’t break any rules or protocols put in place by the government”. “This is important during such unprecedented times, when the entire world is grappling with the pandemic,” he said.
Bhagwat added that the Sangh’s volunteers were already helping the government in relief work and would continue to do so while following all norms. “We may have to scale up our efforts depending on the situation but everything will be done keeping the rules in mind,” he added.
In several parts of the country, RSS volunteers have already started providing food to the needy and have been distributing masks too.