New Delhi: Deeply concerned by the second wave of Covid-19 that has hit the country hard, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has launched a massive nationwide campaign to provide relief to victims as well as counter an atmosphere of “negativity”, with the organisation’s Sarsanghchalak (chief) Mohan Bhagwat slated to address the nation in second week of May. The campaign was launched in the third week of April.
Bhagwat’s address is aimed at creating a positive atmosphere as the RSS feels that it is important to counter the negativity that seems to be propagated knowingly as well as unknowingly by many people. The RSS’ Sar Karyavah (general secretary) Dattatreya Hosabale had recently cautioned that anti-Bharat elements could take advantage of the prevailing situation in wake of the second Covid-19 wave that has brutally impacted the country.
Thus the RSS has decided to consciously promote and propagate positive developments and success stories around Covid-19. Everyday, the prachar vibhag (publicity wing) of the RSS at the state level, as well as samvad kendras (communication centres) across the country run by the swayamsevaks, collect such positive stories and share them with the media as well as on social media.
To give a further big push to this initiative, the RSS has joined hands with a number of spiritual gurus, religious leaders and prominent personalities to hold a series of talks, focusing on creating a positive attitude in society in general.
This series is the first of its kind. Before the finale, which will be addressed by the sarsanghchalak, it would be preceded by a series of addresses by a number of spiritual gurus and well-known personalities such as Jaggi Vasudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This is part of the ‘talk series’ titled ‘Positivity Unlimited’.
The talk is being organised under the banner of a newly formed forum called Covid Response Team (CRT), which has been put together by various organisations and individuals, including some of the ideological mentees of the RSS such as the Sewa Bharti, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Laghu Udyog Bharti, among others.
“The attempt is to bring together all the stakeholders to meet the challenge of Covid-19,” said a senior RSS functionary.
CRT is headed by Lt Gen. Gurmeet Singh (retd) and Ramesh Aggarwal, president, Sewa Bharti, is the co-convenor.
The members of CRT include industry bodies such as FICCI, CII, Laghu Udyog Bharti, CAIT, professional bodies such as ICAI, ICSI, ICWA, spiritual and religious organisations like Patanjali Yogpeeth,Isha Foundation, Art of Living, Sanatan Dharma Pratinidhi Sabha and social organisations like Sewa Bharti, Lions Club, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Rotary Club.
Focus on relief work
CRT, to begin with, has focused on relief work in Delhi with setting up nine isolation Centres with capacity of around 500 beds. It is facilitating provision of temporary oxygen supply to patients awaiting hospitalisation through seven mobile Oxygen vans called ‘Oxygen on Wheels’ having six beds each.
More than 28,000 families of Covid patients, especially senior citizens and economically weaker persons, are being provided food. It has arranged 803 plasma donations and 1,300 CT scans, and arranged 2,619 cremations of persons who died due to Covid-19. CRT also has set up a helpline involving 1,200 volunteers and 130 doctors. It has already received over 88,000 calls until date.
“It is important to counter the atmosphere of negativity and create an atmosphere of positivity,” a senior RSS functionary said. “People need hope along with the relief. We are focusing on bringing society together to fight the battle with a confidence that we will win this battle too.”
Last year also, the RSS’ Sarsanghchalak had addressed the nation on the occasion of Akshya Tritiya (26 April, 2020) amid the first Covid-19 wave, when the nation was coming to terms with a long lockdown.
He had called on all the stakeholders to come together to meet this challenge and help everyone in distress. More than one lakh RSS workers had worked on the ground across the country to provide relief during the first wave.
While the focus during the first Covid-19 wave was on providing food, medicines, masks and support for migrating workers, in the second wave, the RSS focus is now on opening isolation centres, providing oxygen, plasma etc.
According to official data released by the RSS, as of 29 April this year, to provide relief during the second Covid-19 wave, “the RSS swayamsevaks are running Covid Service Centres (Covid Seva Kendra) in 43 major cities”.
“The administration of Covid hospitals is being supported at 219 other locations. 2,442 Vaccination Centers have been started so far with awareness campaigns in more than 10,000 places for vaccination,” the data states.
“600 plasma units were made available in Pune by swayamsevaks, which helped save 1,500 lives,” said another RSS functionary. “It is a continuous process and a donor list of ready to donate plasma donors is already being prepared at state and local level across the country.”
To work systematically and address various aspects of the Covid crisis, the RSS has divided the relief work into 12 major functional categories.
They include “isolation centers for suspected Covid patients, Covid Care (service) Centers for Covid-positive people, assistance in government-run Covid Centers and Hospitals, Telephone Helplines for assistance, Blood Donation, Plasma Donation, Assistance in carrying out Funerals, Distribution of Ayurvedic kaada, Counseling, oxygen supply and ambulance services, Distribution of food, ration and masks, Vaccination campaign and Awareness activities.”
“The challenge is huge, lakhs of swayamsevaks are working on the ground and we are trying to add as much additional capacity as we can in all our relief activities. However, the decision making, planning and execution is decentralised with the state and district units focusing on specific areas where there are gaps,” said a senior RSS functionary. “It is one of the biggest challenges in terms of relief efforts in the history of RSS but we are confident that with support from various quarters, our society will win this battle in days to come. That is why we are focusing on keeping the moral of the society up along with relief efforts.”
(The writer is research director with Delhi based think tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra. He has authored two books on the RSS. Views expressed are personal)