Following the outbreak of the Chinese virus pandemic and the ongoing lockdown, the social organization I am associated with,has taken up the task to distribute dry ration to the needy and affected people. I have been part of their effort in the NCR for the last three weeks. In the midst of our efforts to reach out to as many people as possible, certain logistical issues cropped up mostly related to localities, which have been declared as containment zones debarring any outsider to enter these areas. I wish to share an incident. Last week, our local volunteers in Greater Noida(National Capital Region) told us that they have been receiving frantic calls from one such containment zone. The callers requested if they could be provided with cooked food instead, so as to save on their resources like cooking gas. Faced with this peculiar challenge, we approached the Delhi unit of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) and with their help, contacts were established with the kitchen run by the local unit of the Sangh in Greater Noida area. Unbelievably, 150 cooked food packets were provided to us within a matter of hours and we distributed , much to the astonishment of the recipients.

The purpose of recounting this personal anecdote is to highlight the fact that this has been the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the RSS. And this has been in practice since its inception and most often than not, it is the Swayamsevaks who are the first ones to arrive on the scene of any natural calamity or an accident to carry out the relief work even before the official machineries get into action. The relief or the sewa work (service) that the Sangh carries out, is not limited to natural calamities alone but it was on display even during the 1962 war with China and subsequent wars that India was constrained to fight with Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and 1999.

Such was the work done by the Sangh during the 1962 war that a person no less than Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru invited a contingent of the Swayamsevaks to participate in the 1963 Republic Day parade.

The work being done by the Sangh and its allied organizations all over the country during the ongoig lockdown is in continuation of the long tradition of selfless service for the needy and downtrodden, irrespective of caste, class, creed or religion. In Delhi, within a day of the announcement of the lockdown, Sewa Bharti, an RSS backed organization stepped in to start the relief work and published its helpline number to make contact with them easier. The number of calls received each day varied between 5000 and 15000. Each one of such caller was provided with dry ration. This continues till date. In addition, cooked food for 1,50,000 people is also being provided. Many self-proclaimed liberals have always sought to project the Sangh as anti-Muslims but nothing is far from the truth as evident during the relief work conducted in the national capital itself. Members of the Muslim community are continuously receiving dry ration/cooked food through the Sangh’s network which would seem an anathema to the peddlers of fake news and hate mongers, but for the Sangh the life of each and every Indian is precious .

It is noteworthy that a separate helpline no. was launched to help the students of the North Eastern States and relief in the form of dry nation/cooked food is being provided to scores of such students who are facing difficulty. Apart from providing the requirements of daily needs, the students have been provided a social security network due.

The outreach of the Sangh during the lockdown has been so effective that Sewa Bharti helpline number has become the first port of contact for many in the NCR.

This is highlighted by the fact that when the sex workers in GB Road found themselves in a dire situation, they called up the helpline no and within hours hundreds of them were provided with dry ration packets/cooked food which continues to this day.

The elderly generally get neglected during such occasions, keeping this in perspective, a unique initiative has been taken by the Sangh wherein volunteers have come forward in many localities, offering to attend to the daily requirements of such people be it medical or other daily necessities. By undertaking this exercise the Sangh has ensured that those elderly, especially those staying alone are not left unattended and are provided with societal support during the lockdown.

The work done by the Sangh is not limited only to Delhi NCR. The swayamsevaks are providing services like supply of dry ration/cooked food at 45,5000 places. Arounf 2,58,000 volunteers are engaged day and night to carry out the work. Through the efforts of the Sangh dry ration kits consisting of Rice, Atta(Wheat Flour), Dal(Pulses), Cooking Oil have been provided to 29.61 lakhs families. A total number of 1.93 Crore cooked food packet has been distributed. In addition 11,800 units of blood have been collected for donation and thousands of PPE kits have been provided to health care workers. These figures are updated till 17 April, 2020 and the outreach of the Sangh is increasing by the day. The sewa work being done by the Sangh all over the country is in conformity with what Hindutva stands for; which is all encompassing and takes in its fold everyone irrespective of caste, color or religious denomination. For all those whose life bread has been to criticize the Sangh and malign Hindutva, the services provided by the Sangh totally negates the malicious narrative sought to be built by such vested interests.

(The author is a Supreme Court Advocate and former President of JNUSU)