Saturday, April 4, 2015

My view on PARINAM KUMBH, DHANBAD March 1-3, 2015: report by Ms Shruiti Gupta

My, three day journey of the Kumbh, as a new entrant to the family of Ekal, which started with the enthusiastic faces of people boarding the train with me from Delhi, has been both a learning experience and a realization of the profound and noble path of Ekal. Somewhere, it also has instilled a sense of pride and contentment in me that I am now a part of it.
In my view, ‘Parinam Kumbh’ proved to be a significant milestone in the journey of Ekal, characterised by the unity of spirit of –‘MeraaGaon, MeraaDesh’.It was a step to value and assess the journey of 25 years, with its twists and turns, learning from the past and a fresh start to build the future, with more determination and vigour.
Ekal has made the most neglected villager, residing in the remotest tribal area of Bharat, beam with hope, confidence, self-respect and become self-reliant. It has aimed to reduce the gap between the rich and the poorest of the poor, urban and rural within India. And, the most striking aspect is that Ekal has given an opportunity to fellow Indians, who had left their homeland for better prospects to foreign lands, to get back to their roots and help nurture them.
Looking ahead, it is the pure, selfless service of humankind and a strong nationalist spirit, which will make Ekal, both a significant catalyst in India’s prosperity and a benchmark model of the participation of the lowest strata of society in the nation’s progress.

Meaning and Rationale of Parinam Kumbh:
Parinam Kumbh was organized from 1st March- 3rd March 2015, commemorating 25 years of the Ekal movement, right at the place of the birth of this noble mission - Dhanbad. It marked the coming together of different umbrella organizations of Ekal Abhiyaan both within India and abroad.
The occasion involved introspection, assessment and evaluation of the journey so far, and the discussion on the blue print  how to make an Ekal Movement more effective in realisation of its goal towards an integrated village development of rural and tribal Bharat.
March 1, 2015 - Day one events:
Inauguration of Exhibition:
The Kumbh started with an inauguration of the exhibition from Eight states, namely ….. showcasing the achievements of Ekal through photographs. There was display cum sale of different items produced by Ekal Karyakartas like Jaivik Khaad, organic spices, handicrafts, sarees. It was an opportunity to interact with the grassroots volunteers and to know the functioning of the Gramothaan Resource Centres.
Shobha Yatra: 
This was a huge procession of more than fifty thousand Ekal volunteers from different states, covering the city from all directions chanting and Ram Bhajans.
The march started from 3 different places at 10:00 AM
Coal field building
Airport ground
Railway stadium
and reached Golf ground at 11:30 AM.
Public Address: Ekal’s mentor – Ma Shyam Gupt addressed a crowd of more than some 50,000 people, elaborating on the very motive of Parinam Kumbh, welcoming key dignitaries Sri Ashok Singhal and Didi Maa Sadhvi Ritambra, followed by their public address.
Sri Ashok Singhal stressed on how India, which was once called as ‘Sone Ki Chidiya’, has lost its pride and glory, and how he sees Ekal Movement as the ‘Brahmaastra’ to restore the same.
Didi Maa stressed on the qualities that are the most essential  to unitedly and single- mindedly  proceed in our noble mission of transforming Bharat and to safeguard against the very obstacles of  ego, envy, jealousy and competition in the process.
This was an event to pay an ode to Sri Madan Lal Agrawala , the founder of Ekal Abhiyaan, at his residence – Jyoti Bhawan, organised by his family members. A memorable evening, marked by Bhajan Sandhya in the presence of dignitaries like Sri Mohan Bhagwat, Sri Subhash Chandra of Zee TV, set the momentum for the entire event.

2nd March 2015- Day two events:
Inaugural Session:
Sri Mohan Bhagwat, emphasized on the very spirit of Ekal movement and the purpose of this Kumbh, i.e. to take stock of what we have done and where we want to go from here. In his opinion, it is important to analyse and learn from our past mistakes to avoid repeating the same. Decisions can be based on the present situation, but it is crucial to have a focussed strategy in place. It is important to have a feeling ofAtmiyata’- the spirit that every person has a latent potential and we, as Ekal are only facilitators to bring it out in our rural fellows. We should never become arrogant; rather hold a sense of gratitude for the same.
This was followed by specific sessions of Ekal’s five pillars, each session having a common pattern, in terms of starting with an Ekal video film, then a song, followed by a power point presentation by a key person,succeeded by experiences of Acharyaas, Karyakartaas and a conclusion remark and in the end a symphonic Chaupai.

Session 1- Primary Education: 
The video of Shramanand Shiksha Sansthaan was shown highlighting the development of both educational skills and specific skills such as agricultural or electrical in village children.
The song ‘Mun ke sacche bacchon’ was sung enumerating the spirit behind primary education.
The key points of Prashikshan Toli Pramukh- Shri Raghavanji’s presentation are as follows-
1.       Following in the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda, Ekal focusses on village development oriented education, rather than city oriented.
2.       The stress is on development of all involved, their sanskaar and Dharma.
3.       Ekal model initially studied by Dr. Popli, 25 yrs. back as per the suitability of a village.
4.       Presently we have three types of schools-first, in areas where there are no schools,second, where there are government schools but children do not attend the same, third are schools which give supportive education to children where they are already enrolled in government schools.
5.       The school follows a non-formal methodology of teaching.
6.       The teacher or Acharya belongs to that very village, driven by social bent of mind, rather than material.
7.       Karyakartaas, the volunteers, again are people driven by a passion to serve the nation.
After understanding the school model, it was heartening to hear the real, grassroots experiences of Acharyaas cum karyakartaas, some of them are as follows:
1.       Neeraj Singh from Bihar said that Ekal’s education has helped removing untouchability in his village.
2.       Jaidev, from Orissa, started as a student and now has reached the position of Prathmik Shiksha Pramukh, feels proud of Ekal.
3.       Rajesh Kumari from Rajasthan, feels Ekal has significantly contributed to her self-confidence and given her appreciation from both the villagers and the government schools. It has started the tradition of march of religious geet toli in village in the mornings.
4.       Ajay, an Acharya of Dibrugarh said that Ekal has helped in saving the village from alcoholism and violence.
5.       Similar encouraging experiences were narrated by Surendra Kumar from Chhattisgarh, Chaitanya Bhoi from Orissa, Mahindra Yadav from Jharkhand, Nirmal Mahto from West Bengal, Kailash from Udaipur, Ramesh Limbu from Assam, Vijay Kumara from Keralaand Sunil Timang from Guwahati.
In concluding remark, Mr. Raghavan said that Ekal education is an extension of Gurukul Parampara with stress on sanskaar, values, enriching the overall personality. It is not about money but self-respect of a villager and dignity of the whole community with focus on village development, instead of migration to cities. He emphasized that the relation with nature is permanent and sustainable for e.g.with our agricultural land, our cows and Ekal reinforces this bonding strongly.
In between the common sessions, there were also Organisation wise sessions, the one of FTS attended by me, had the following key areas of discussion:
1.       Mr. Arun Bajaj narrated the journey of FTS from 1989 onwards when Ekal approached the villages, with no approach road or any kind of connectivity to at present, managing more than 50% of total Ekal schools in India.
2.       Online payment of Mandhan has been initiated, instead of payment via Samitis.
3.       The Treasurer of FTS stressed on how the entire chapter accounts have been streamlined. Online MIS reports like MAR,MWR have linked the different chapters.
4.       Idle cash balances have been significantly reduced.
5.       The Guwahati Chapter has advanced significantly in last 2-3 years.
6.       Kabraji emphasized the role of Anchal as the backbone of Ekal and the need to strengthen them.
7.       Sajjan Bhajankaji stressed on the need to feed our army of Karyakartaas with all the needed resources.

Session 2- Healthcare Education
After the Ekal Video, the song, ‘Har praani ko swastha banana hai’ was sung by Savita.
Dr. Mukul Bhatia’s presentation on AROGYA foundation highlighted the key areas listed below:
1.       Arogya wing of Ekal was started since 1999 with the twin objective of health development of villages at the local level and through linking the villages with the cities.
2.       At the village level, health awakening has taken place through teaching personal hygiene, cleanliness drive and construction of toilets.Malnutrition, especially in women, being a key health hazard, has been targeted. The ancient jadi-booti gyaan and natural therapies have been reinforced, which have been the treasure house of tribal communities.
3.       Medical camps, such as those of dental, blood donation and eye camps have been organized to link city doctors and specialists with interior villages.
4.       Chapters of Arogya, example Delhi chapter have been started.
5.       Anaemia control is a special focus area of Arogya Foundation. Presently 13 sanchs have seen the progress in this regard with the help of both the RSS Karyakartaas and representatives of USA.
6.       The key driving force behind the Anaemia control is village women, called as ‘Arogya Sevikaayen’ who in spite of no medical background, are trained to conduct haemoglobin tests.
7.       Stress is on use of Ayurvedic medicines such as Triphala to treat Anaemia and awareness of having a balanced diet, is given to villagers.
8.       There is a 5 year plan to increase the Arogya movement in Sanchs.
9.       Dr. C. Satish’s contribution in Tamilnadu and Dr.T.N.Sanpathy’s contribution in Jharkhand is noteworthy and commendable.
The following experiences of Karyakartaas were really admirable:
1.       Anuradha Thakur from Himachal Pradesh narrated how a HIV positive woman got timely medical assistance through Ekal.
2.       Narendra Mehli from Jharkhand shared how due to age old superstitions of villagers, there were widespread deaths due to Diarrhoea, which once reported to the Ekal Gram Samiti, led to the stress on toilet facilities to prevent infections.
3.       Malti Devi from Bihar shared how a medicine, manufactured from Cow’s urine helped in curing pneumonia in her village.
4.       Manoranjan from Malda, recounted how the weekly school of Ekal spread knowledge about health in his village, rampant with Malaria, typhoid and superstitious beliefs of Adivasis.
5.       Prabhavati Devi from Ranchi told about the treatment of Anaemia through homemade medicines.
6.       Purnchandra from a village in West Bengal, narrated how, Ekal arranged for his eye treatment through Kolkata and helped him get his vision back.
7.       Ramgarh stressed on the concept of developing Poshan Vatika for balanced diet to fight Anaemia.
8.       Narain Lal from Udaipur reported that 2636 cases of Anaemia have been treated in women.
9.       Kankeshwar Tanti from Assam told about the focus on Acupressure and Yoga through Ekal.
10.   Prahlaad Kumar from J&K recalled the treatment given to flood victims in his region, through Ekal medical camps.
11.   Gogoi from Assam reported about the free eye operations of 500 people.
In conclusion, Hema Malini enumerated that the Arogya foundation mainly focusses on the eating habits and lifestyle modifications of villagers, instead of just providing allopathic medicines. Also, to bring back the ayurvedic home remedies in the villages.

Session 3- Development  Education
Ekal video named ‘Dharti ki Taaqat’ was played which quoted malnutrition as a bigger problem in the villages , compared to poverty.The solution lies in ‘Poshan Vatika’.This was followed by a Geet titled ‘ Main kisaan Banunga’ by Sharmaaji.
Shri Lalanji’s presentation on Gramothan Yojana highlighted the following points:
1.       The mission of this initiative is Gram Swaraj with focus on Cow –based agriculture and rural entrepreneurship.
2.       Village should become the centre of economic activity.
3.       Total 9 Gramotthan centres in India presently.
4.       At village level GPC (Production centre), Sanch level GMC (marketing centre), state level GRC (resource centre) and central level EGF is formed.
5.       GRC is responsible for conducting trainings of youth, women and farmers.
6.       The concept of Poshan vatika was highlighted which is based on the concept of integrated farming. It emphasizes a 3 tier cropping pattern which leads to 6-9 times production.
7.       Development of jaivik khaad and Jivamrit, to be used as organic manure and pest repellent, as opposed to use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
8.       Stress on rainwater harvesting.
Following Experiences of farmers were noteworthy in this regard:
1.       Birendra Mahto from Jharkhand reported that annual income of farmers increased to Rs. 50000 - 1 lakh by selling products in nearby market.
2.       Laxmi Narayan from Orissa told that many farmers have built their pakka houses from their incomes.
3.       Rama Vishnu from Chhattisgarh narrated about the teaching of vermi compost to farmers by Ekal.
4.       Sunil Rai from Jharkhand told how with the use of Jaivik Khaad, the lost fragrance of Basmati rice has got restored.
5.       Ramlal Bahla from Orissa, an illiterate farmer, very confidently spoke about his increased income, leading to good education of his children.
6.       Shilpa Mishra narrated how the Karanjo centre in Jharkhand helped her become independent through their sewing and stitching training.
7.       Morya from U.P, told about the more juicy and sweet production of sugarcanes because of use of Jaivik Khaad.
In conclusion, through the Gramothaan yojana of Ekal, the problem of city migration of villagers and malnutrition has resolved. It aims at the villager becoming the master of his village, not the servant of the city.
In another group session, Bagraji took a comprehensive session on the operations aspect of Ekal through highlighting the concept of SVO (State Voluntary Organization) ,bringing out the following points-
1.       SVO is a tool to link the Nagar Sangthan with the Gram Sangthan.
2.       37 SVOs are operational at present, out of which, 24 are registered under section 12 A of the Income tax Act and 17 are registered under section 80 G.
3.       SVO is crucial in involving more and more people to the cause by forming samitis at village, sanch and anchal levels.
4.       It has the role of supervising and motivating the sanch and anchal samitis, which form the backbone of Ekal movement, recruitment of teachers and Karyakartaas at various levels.
5.       SVO is responsible for adherence to systems and procedures, integrity in financial matters and transparency.
6.       Compliance with all government laws.

3rd March 2015- Day three events:
Session 4-Empowerment  Education
The presentation made by Shri Khemanand highlighted the following points on this arm of Ekal Movement:
1.       The focus is on Gram Swaraj – self-governance, as envisioned by MahatmaGandhi by making the villagers aware of their rights and involving them in the development process.
2.       Swabhimaan Jaagran Abhiyaan, as it is called, aims to fill the gap between people and government and eradicate the malice of unemployment, migration to cities, depletion of natural resources and extreme situations like starvation and suicide of farmers.
3.       Villagers are trained to sensitize them with the policies of the governmente.g. NREGA, Panchayat Raj, police, post office, bank, Right To Information Act  etc.
4.       Instilling pride in villagers about the national heritage and consciousness towards environment conservation and preservation.
5.       Events such as each child planting a tree annually and Nadi Bachao andolan are conducted.
6.       Sports events, marathons are organized to involve more local people.
7.       Awareness of RTI Act and reinforcing of the constitutional rights of villagers through the RTI is done to ensure proper functioning of the local panchayat and government departments.
8.       RTI Awareness  and its exercise by the villagers  has resulted in ensuring receipt of PDS supplies, timely electricity provision in villages, proper wage disbursal under NREGA and release of bank loans , pensions etc.
The area wise experiences listed below highlight how Ekal is empowering the villagers:
1.       In Chhattisgarh, water harvesting pits were made to be dug on time by the government.
2.       Tube well installation work was ensured through RTI.
3.       In cases where lower wages were given to labourers for tank construction, action was taken and even bank accounts were opened.
4.       Sanjay Kumar of J&K told how, through Ekal the Hindu culture got a facelift in areas where use of Urdu was predominant. Ekal schools remain functional in nearby areas in Ladaakh, which is covered with snow for major part of the year.
5.       Jagran shivirs are organized where information is sourced through internet and shared with villagers,e.g. one such case of Mismanagement of Indra Awas Pension Scheme by Gram Sarpanch.
6.       Local sarpanch got arrested in case of illegal construction of boundary wall and encroachment of land, when villagers agitated in group.
7.       Through Ekal, a road construction project, which was getting delayed due to the resistance in required demolition of houses on that path, became smoother through proper persuasion of those villagers.
8.       One of the Karyakartaas received a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh by Nitish Kumar in recognition of his contribution.
9.       Another Karyakartaa won the local Sarpanch election due to his service.
To conclude, Swaabhimaan Jaagran wing of Ekal is the link between the planning and execution of village development and a firm step to make the village community self-dependent, more conscious of their role in the same.
Session 5- Cultural Education
The session was started with a video on village craftsmanship and song by Bhai Lakshminath.
Kendriya sanskaar Shiksha Pramukh gave a presentation, which highlighted the following:
1.       With economic progress, moral progress is also essential.
2.       The mission is toensuresocial equality in villages, alcohol free village, instil personal and Rashtriya sanskaar and safeguard unity and security in villages.
3.       The focus is to preserve and deepen the rich heritage of Hindu religion and philosophy in the most remote areas, especially as a means to control the religious conversions.
4.       The methodology includes training of Acharya Kathakaars, Vyas kathaakaars, Hari mandir Rath Ayojan, Sant pravaas Yojana, Kathaa Ayojan and Vanyaatraas to villages.
5.       Kathaakaars are trained to conduct and manage Satsangs in the villages.
6.       A strong recommendation was made to conduct Ram katha and Bhaagwat katha in Anchal kendras.
7.       In interiors, where there are no temples e.g. in north east India, Hari Mandir Rath is an initiative to instil bhakti bhaav through mobile temples, aarti and spreading religious awareness to villagers through devotional films. Recently such raths were organized in Gorakhpur and Gaya.
The following experiences were noteworthy in this regard:
1.       In Jharkhand, during Navratras, 36 people pledged on the Havan kund to quit alcohol and planted Tulsi in their houses.
2.       In Chhattisgarh, the illegal smuggling of cows for slaughter was prevented and goshalas were formed to rear the cows.
3.       In Alipur anchal, Ghar wapasi of villagers, converted to Christianity, was initiated, through conducting Havan.
4.       In Himachal Pradesh, the attitude towards Dalits was corrected by organising weekly Satsangs, common for all castes in the village.
5.       Even it has been ensured that not only a Brahman, but a person of low caste should also become a Kathaakaar.
6.       Banwaari Lal of Lucknow, who once himself was an alcoholic and a matter of concern for his family, went to Ayodhya to undergo training and become an Acharya in Ekal and hence got completely transformed.
7.                   InWest Bengal, temples were developed in a village.
8.                   In Guwahati, through Ekal, a kathaa was conducted where 500 villagers pledged to follow their forgotten Hindu customs, and conducted marriages as per Hindu traditions.
As a conclusion remark, the Ekal Sanskaarmovement has brought back theancient focus on moral education and sanskaars. It has helped restoring the Hindu tradition and culture through kathaas /satsangs and is a defence mechanism against mass conversions of Hindus to other religions.

Session 6- Samaroop Session
This was the finale session of Parinam Kumbh, which started with a song-‘Nirmaano Ke Paawan Yug Mein’ by Geet Kumar.
This was followed by various Nagar Sangthan’s presentations by their key people.
The important features of the same are listed below:
A.      Presentation by Mr. Ramesh Maheshwari, FTS
1.       FTS got established in 1989, since then has developed 31 chapters all across India and manage more than 51%of EkalSchools.
2.       Abhiyaan Kaaryalaya was established to consolidate the reporting mechanism from all over India.
3.       The operations have been streamlined over the years by linking entire Ekal through online MIS reports such as MAR and MWR plus online transfer of salaries.
4.       Ekal Bhavan in Kolkata has been equipped with all the necessary facilities to ensure comfortable stay and training of people.

B.      Presentation by Mr. Naresh Jain , BLSP
1.       This wing is mainly focussed on northern part of India and has total 12 chapters.
2.       BLSP is very strong in its liasioning with PSU’s and other corporates for Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) initiatives.
3.       The Mahila Samiti wing is active under the leadership of Manjushreeji.
4.       Fund raising events such as Deepawali festival, plays and Kavi sammelans are organized.
5.       Samarpan Sammaan Samaaroh organized to felicitate donors sponsoring 100 schools minimum.
6.       600 schools run by BLSP have lifetime donation.

C.      Presentation by Mr. Ramesh Shah
1.       Ekal has approximately 54,000 schools in its kitty and 16 lakh students getting benefited.
2.       It has the lowest administrative cost @10% due to major voluntary service involved.
3.       Funds for various initiatives of Ekal are collected through donors, karyakartaas, acharyas and samitis.
4.       17000 schools, which constitute 32% of total Ekal schools, are run by global contributions.
5.       USA, with its 48 chapters is the biggest international fundraiser for Ekal with approximately a sum of Rs. 25 crores routed annually.

D.      Presentation by Mr.Satyanarayan Kaabra
1.       Sanskaar Shikshaa reaches villagers hearts whereas the other components of Ekal Abhiyaan reach their homes.
2.       Total 19 chapters exist of Hari Satsang Samiti.

E.       Presentation by Mr.Bajrang Bagra
1.       Presentation highlighted how the donations received are actually used and operations carried out by Ekal.
2.       Ekal, being a people’s movement aims at involving more and more people in its journey.
3.       State Voluntary Organization (SVO), is the link between the city and the village, with presently total 37 SVOs operational under each Bhag.
4.       SVO is responsible for the formation of Acharya and Sevavrati Karyakartaas Samitis, recruitment, management, trainings of all, ensuring the quality and transparency of operations and compliance with Government policies and laws.
5.       SVO works through Sanch and Anchal Samitis.

F.       Presentation on Mahilaa Vibhaag by Manjushreeji
1.       Mahila Vibhaag has two components-one is chapter Mahila Samiti and the other is Prantiya Seva Mahila Samiti.
2.       30 Mahila Samitisare under various chapters of Ekal e.g. those of FTS, BLSP etc. with 600 ladies as members.
3.       250 samitis are at Prantiya Level e.g. Sambhaag, bhag, anchal etc. with 5000 ladies as members.
4.       Several programmes initiated such as Vanyatraa, Karyakartaa Uphaar Sammaan to felicitate their work, Sneh sampark Parivaar Yojana to touch base with the people to take their feedback and motivate them further.
5.       Maa Yashodaa Yojana is a drive to collect small contributions through the effort of village children.
6.       FTS Bangalore is the first all women chapter.

G.     Presentation on Ekal Sansthaan  by Mr. Praveen Arya
1.       Ekal Sansthaan is the Research and development wing of Ekal, involved in various publications and analysis of new proposals through the National Appraisal Team (NAT).
2.       It plays a strategic role in mobilizing volunteers for Nagar Sangthan through Ekal Learning Yatraa, seminars and study circles.
3.       It also facilitates the third party assessment of the Ekal movement for an unbiased evaluation such as those by agencies, Aspiring Minds and Pratham.
This was followed by Shyaamji’s encouragement to everyone awakened and responsible in the Ekal movement, to strive to make it even more impactful and expansive. Shri Mohan Bhagwatji and Shri Ashok Singhalji applauded Ekal Abhiyaan’s role in making India’s village- its foundation, stronger and firmly rooted in values and envisioned a far reaching role of Ekal in years to come to ensure that our nation becomes a model for the world.

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