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How RSS volunteers plunged into rescue and relief efforts in Chennai  

Updated: January 3, 2024 15:12
RSS volunteers working round the clock to provide relief to the flood-affected people in Chennai in December 2023. . Image Source: X handle: @friendsofrss

As the aftermath of Cyclone Michaung enveloped Chennai (in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu) in chaos and despair, the true essence of human resilience and compassion was displayed in the rescue efforts.

The testimonies from countless individuals paint a vivid picture of the selfless acts that defined this crisis. Rescue operations by the Armed Forces and National Disaster Response Force stood as beacons of hope, pulling families from the clutches of the rising waters. Volunteers, many unknown faces, stepped into the breach, transforming themselves into anchors of support for the distressed. The accounts of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers setting up kitchens, anticipating and tackling the crisis head-on, are a testament to their foresight and unwavering commitment to community service.

These individuals, bound by the ideology of selfless service, became lifelines for thousands, distributing essential aid, rescuing the stranded, and providing critical support. Their actions spoke volumes, embodying the spirit of empathy and selflessness.

Their unspoken dedication and selflessness should serve as an inspiration, urging us all to look beyond ourselves. Saluting the resilient spirit of Chennai during its darkest hours, here are some media reports regarding the role played by the RSS volunteers during the calamity.


Chennai Floods 2023 – The Unsung Heroes

On behalf of all Chennaites, I sincerely thank Armed Forces along with NDRF for spearheading the rescue missions at Chennai and supporting with relief materials after the cyclone. My sister’s family along with my nanogenarian mom were rescued in a boat by the Army from high rise residential apartment in Perumbakkam. We sincerely thank the unknown face from the Chennai Veteran group who had activated Army to rescue my family members. The state administration is totally clueless of the rescue plan in such an eventuality even after 72 hours despite the fact that colony is housing close to 6000 people. This is not the only colony as such. Sad state of affairs to say the least. There were lots of volunteers in different pockets of the city who got into action and helping out people in distress and we are great full to them too.

On 4th Dec, Chennai was getting a very heavy downpour not witnessed in the recent times. I was driving to the nearest Petrol station to fetch diesel for our generator along with a co-resident and reaching back home was indeed a challenge and scary too. After seeing the situation, I reached out to Air Veteran Group, Chennai, family members and friends to support me in relief operations limited to giving food, water and milk to the needy within a limited radius from my home as there were poor people around.

While self and my wife were planning for food distribution, we came across RSS volunteers who were giving us a ground reality check of areas which are marooned and the people who are really in distress. We shifted our relief focus to those areas beyond the vicinity of our home. By this time, we realised our relief operations was delayed by more than 48 hours as RSS had already started making food and distributing to the homeless from Monday evening onwards. They were pro-active, anticipating this calamity and started on war footing when the cyclone hit us. Beauty is no one will ever come to know that the RSS is doing the relief with the help of good samaritans who helped them in food preparations and distribution.

I also came to know that RSS is augmenting volunteers from other Northern States to help Chennaites.

So far in the last three days, food for 2000 people and 500 ltrs of water has been distributed by our team at various places and limited milk and bread. This couldn’t have been possible but for the support we got from Chennai Air Veteran Group, family and friends circle and we thank them immensely. Today noon (8th Dec) the food distribution activity will be called off by our team and will be switching over to getting them bedsheets, mosquito net, bleaching powder, mosquito coils and medicines. The state machinery is yet to speak on those needs yet. They may be planning probably.

The water stagnation is slowly receding and the ruling party has hit the streets with bags of rice and other relief materials. Big line is waiting for many hours for the distribution as we drive down at various places as the local MLA and media hasn’t reached there. During critical times the ruling elite stayed indoors while the Army, NDRF, RSS and other volunteer groups were providing relief.

Once the city has dried up they are seen everywhere.

The true Unsung Heroes are the Armed Forces, NDRF, RSS. These were the guys who were rescuing the affected in critical times from Ground Zero and they will never be remembered by the public. A case in point is a RSS member who is a young lad aged 26 years and also a taxi owner cum driver was shuttling to carry food packets up and down for more than 100 kms daily without expecting to be compensated. And he is not the only one from the RSS. There are many more. RSS displays a true Nationalist and Service Minded ideology in every human disaster. To make it further straight I don’t belong to RSS when I praise this Organisation.

Last but not the least, it’s also sad to mention that young people from big apartments stayed indoors to be helped with relief materials rather than coming out and helping the elderly and needy while the Army, NDRF and poor people were helping the rich. They need to do some soul searching and change themselves to serve the society rather than getting glued to mobiles and computers and be an Arm Chair Critic.

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Swayamsevaks of RSS and Seva Bharati in Chennai Flood Relief

For five days, storm and rains have severely affected Tamil Nadu capital Chennai and surrounding districts. The state government said that 75 thousand government employees are involved in the rescue and relief work. After five full days Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin invited voluntary organizations to come forward to help the affected people. But on the day of the onset of storm RSS, Seva Bharati volunteers engaged themselves in flood relief and rescue work. 17 people have died in Chennai due to storm and floods. Hundreds are in relief camps. Many people had to leave marooned Chennai for their hometowns. Due to flooding on the roads, traffic has been affected and the supply of essential items including milk has been hit for several days. In the meantime, IIT Chennai has taken an effort to collect the depth of stagnant water at regular intervals. The data collected will be used to identify flood hotspots. The platform launched by IIT enables users / public to report details like flood location, depth of water etc. The purpose of the data collected through this platform is to improve disaster preparedness.

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RSS – Seva Bharathi in disaster relief services

Michaung cyclone brought heavy rains on 3rd, 4th and flooding Chennai on 5th of Dec, 2023. General public were stranded in their houses as flood water entered all the streets and several houses unsure of how they are going to get out of the flood situation. Wasting no time, Sevabharathi volunteers set on their toes to reach the people in distress.

In the attempt, by 4th December the Sevabharathi volunteers undertook the massive flood relief operation across 15 zones of the Chennai Corporation. With the helpline numbers circulated in social media, more than 5000 help requests were received, within the short time. Kitchens were set up at several spots like Kolathur, Tiruvotriyur, Triplicane, Korattur, Velachery, Tambaram, Chromepet, Pattabiram etc. Volunteers came forward for cooking, cutting vegetables, packeting and despatching the food packets.

Sevabharathi has distributed more than 2,75,000 food packets, more than 11,00,000 water bottles, more than 20,000 bread and biscuit packets, more than 1,500 milk packets and rescued more than 500 people as reported on 6th Dec, 2023.

Tamilnadu Sevabharathi is a movement for Service which functions upon the saying of Swami Vivekananda, ‘Serve Man as the manifestation of God’ striving to see that every person who is served, raises himself/herself confidently with ‘self-esteem, confidence and self-reliance.’

The Seva Projects function on the five service dimensions called ‘Pancha Kaarya’ which are the duties towards “Education, Health Care, Self-Reliance, Social Welfare and Disaster Management & Rehabilitation”. Through these ‘Pancha Kaarya”, Sevabharathi Tamilnadu aims to bring holistic development among individuals and families which would eventually lead to the development of the nation.

After rendering their valuable and timely services to the fellow-citizens and the Nation, the Sevabharati volunteers silently return back to their personal lives without claiming any recognition or reward in return for their services. Sevabharathi is neither shown in news highlights nor is any documentary film made on their services. No prominent banners to advertise their services. Yet, Sevabharathi’s services continue as a silent moral support to the civic society whispering in low voice that “if there is any need, do not worry, Sevabharathi is there to help you.” Such humane are the decades of humble, dedicated services of Sevabharathi Tamilnadu, serving people in distress!

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The Hindu – Chennai flexes its volunteering muscles once again to keep the Michaung-hit fed

Classrooms become kitchens, homemakers become chefs: massive efforts are under way to keep the Michaung-hit fed and in good spirits. As Chennai hobbles back to normality, it clearly needs as many hands on the deck as it can get.

More than 3,000 volunteers of Seva Bharathi have fanned across Chennai for relief and rescue work. Once the organisers realised the urgent needs of residents in and around Triplicane had been met, they closed the temporary kitchen at Ethugiri Mutt East Tank Square Street.

“We had a good number of them trained in disaster relief,” says V. Nirmal Kumar, general secretary, Seva Bharathi.

During the 2015 floods, he says, the group did not make note of the amount of food distributed or the number of people calling for help. “Now, every detail is fed into an Excel sheet,” he says, rattling off the numbers of boats employed for rescue and the number of food packets distributed. “Every day, we have a call to take stock of the relief work and what to focus on the next day.” He says all this has helped them be more organised.

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