India Uncut - The Tsunami Posts

At the end of December 2004 and the beginning of January 2005, I travelled through the tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu, India. These are the posts from just before, during and after my trip that I wrote for my blog, India Uncut.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Despatches 26: Separating politics from social work

I hear at the AID India office that a number of people who support the organisation have protested their tie-up with the Democratic Youth Forum of India (DYFI) at a grassroots level. Yet others are complaining about the relief work that the RSS is doing in the villages. They are all afraid that these organisations – DYFI has a communist affiliation, and RSS, of course, propagates Hindutva – will make political capital out of their social work here.

Such criticism is unjustified. I am against both communists and religious fundamentalists, but not in this context. On the political and economic arena, I think the ideas of the extreme right and well as the extreme left are misguided and bad for the country. But on a social level, the work they do is exemplary, and at a level of commitment that few others can match.

The RSS did outstanding relief work during the Bhuj earthquake and the Orissa cyclone, and no praise can do justice to the work that I have seen DYFI do during my trip through Tamil Nadu. They have walked through slush and lifted decaying bodies to burn them, they have worked tirelessly, not bothered about day or night or aching body, in village after village on the coast.

The main reason AID India tied up with them was because they simply do not have the kind of manpower at the grassroots level that they need to implement their ambitious developmental plans, and DYFI does. Many of AID’s volunteers are city-based part-timers (or one-timers, as in the case of so many who have volunteered to help out in this catastrophe), and they need grassroots people. DYFI has the manpower but not the funds or the planning ability of AID India. But they are working towards the same social purpose, and theirs is a perfect symmetry.

To those who are worried that DYFI or the RSS might extract political gain from their work, I have only one thing to say: if you oppose them in the political arena, nothing stops you from going out to the villages yourself and working as hard as they do to neutralise the goodwill that you are so scared they’re getting. That kind of competition, in doing good, would surely be healthy. But complaining about people who are saving lives and helping survivors rebuild lives is just plain wrong.
amit varma, 7:36 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink