Volunteer of the month

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 1 May 2008

Humanists and Grass Root Work – by Gurinder Singh Azad

For the last few months, I have been thinking about, what humanist movements has to do to strengthen their practicalities and what has to be done to aware people for their human rights, most importantly, what has to be done to spread the benefits to the people living at the edge of life and death.

I have been engaged with a humanist/rationalist movement named Tarksheel Society Punjab for the last ten years and had worked at a grass-root level (from the very beginning till three years back my shift to Delhi) and got experience how it feels when you are unemployed and invest money from your pocket money to do others’ work. You are well aware that you would not be paid at all.

You use your time, money, and energy and in lieu of that get no words of encouragement from anyone. Rather you have to face scolding of parents for “wasting” your time. But for the sake of deep satisfaction and sense of responsibility towards society, you keep on going.

One of my young friends lost his life while working for the movement in an accident and left his wife and two small kids in this world to face hardships of life. We use to organize a rationalist program or workshop every year in his memory, with the aid from locals.

But now, that too is not happening for the last three-four years. What a ground reality is this! In his life with the movement he remained a silent worker and after his death he became a silent hero. Though, I know personally, his work is not less than anyone who is highlighted on the international platform. His family got no aid from anyone.

TSP never has that much funds to be used at such situations. There are hundreds of workers who have devoted their whole life in promoting humanism and could influence their locals. But they remained silent nationally or globally. Due to language and family problems they have to confine themselves to their own locality. And, social change takes place like this.

Such a difficult destination always needs small but thoughtful steps. This is a hard truth of life. Sometime you are not here to notice change for which you have contributed with your whole life.And more importantly, social change lies on the shoulders who work as missionaries and work at grass root level.

I came across so many people from different scenarios working for the same cause.And now working with international organizations and getting from their experiences, my mind is observing something different. I am experiencing how grass root work getting absent in Asian countries and paper work is becoming more prominent. Meetings are important but what if there is not implementation. Money has been going in vain (my experience) and giving profit to people who just want name, fame and remaining of the funds.

In India NGO business is flourishing like anything. If one has a look on the revenue, it is in much competition with corporate. A report says if all NGOs form a country, their funding in total will make them fourth richest country of the world. I was just thinking if such huge money is involved then why social change is not speeding up. Why health and education to poor is still a far-away matter? In fact, it is intention that matters. Still here are death-hungers whereas NGO runners roam around in expensive cars. Why they are fail to carry people’s voice to bureaucracy or government? Reason is simple, intention to change social set up and bridging the gap between problems and their solutions by doing work in masses at grass root is purely absent, many a times.

On the contrary paper work is much. Schemes are made to fetch grants whereas implementation on them requires really tough work. Who will go in slums to see the actual problems of poor people? Who will talk about their basic needs in a positive way? Who will make bureaucracy or government answerable before law? They work less and show off much to impress funding authorities. It requires lot of courage and stamina to walk on this rough and difficult passage.The real workers, who can give authentic information and guide our society, are often sidelined when credit is to be given.

It really saddens me. Those ‘heroes’ have to bring in limelight. Therefore, I have proposed prizes for top five activists of the year, in TSP. And their little work-history should be displayed on TSP’s website, so that they remained encouraged. So that theirs credits remain with them …so that they stay optimistic… so that their credit may not hijacked. Now, interacting with international activists, I have a capacity to understand that if one really wants to do something for this society as a whole, our efforts should decentralized from expensive meetings to workshops. We will have to make our intentions very clear before our own. We have to work at grass root level. How long we can confined to arranging meetings? This vicious circle has to be broken!It is a whirlpool. We need grass level work to understand exact problems and their solutions, in a broader sense.In the countries like ours, policies for farmers are made sitting in air-conditioned rooms. Most of the policies makers never visited fields- the farmers’ workshop. They don’t know which crop is planted or harvested in which month and what efforts farmers made to nourish and protect it. And such are the policy makers! That is why farmers in India are committing suicide. Their problems are never understood because bureaucracy remained fail to feel farmer’s basic problems. It is imperative for policy-makers to have in-depth knowledge of farmers’ work. But they don’t have and never tried to. When a farmer works in his fields and counters any problem he has to find its solution at the spot.

Sitting at home it is not possible to find solutions of the problems. Farmers’ needs should be attended respectfully and timely. And, same trends have to be followed everywhere, I think. We promote humanism. We work for human beings for their human rights. And it is imperative that who are most deprived, leaderships should come from them since they have centuries long experiences of their problems. Whosoever is philanthropic in its ideology but not a deprived one has to strengthen deprived people without any discrimination. Like farmers, they know what and where the problems are lying. Here, in India, many healthy-wealthy people think that the way to benefits to the poor should go from their own hands. If deprived section wants to take leadership, it is indigestible to them. In a way they want to form a humanist dynasty in which no one from deprived (outsider) is allowed. And they love to be known themselves “humanists”. Present scenario is demanding such positive and worthy changes. If humanists in fact, believe in humanism, I must say, don’t cry for deprived people or Dalits (lower caste/ tribal people or deprived women. But, make them aware for their human rights and when they raise their voice, strengthen their voice. I salute those, who are working at grass root level.

Author: Gurinder Singh Azad, 32 years old, Assistant Coordinator (since 2004), Tarksheel Society Punjab (TSP),Tarksheel Bhawan, Tarksheel Chowk, Sangheda By-Pass Barnala, Punjab (India), started work as an activist in 1997,Profile: promote rationalism through selling literature, organizing small Tarksheel programs in schools along with other activists (plays in simple local language adding fun to it), organizing magic shows in schools or villages making people understand these are just the hand tricks but not any paranormal practice, running a mobile psychopath centre like going to the patient and counsel it, promotion of literature pertaining to rationalism (TSP has its own publication house), organizing mass processions to aware people on the issues of female feticide, woman education, to make people aware about the value of trees, clean environment and water. Deep interior villages are given priority for all above activities.

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