Una, Himachal Pradesh: If you love God, you will love your fellow beings too, and this results in service to society, wise people say. Swami Ramkrishna and his followers are doing selfless service at an ashram in Kuthar Khurd, Una district, Himachal Pradesh. After undergoing the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) in 2008, he was inspired to serve society and work towards improving the quality of life in the villager. Soon, he won over several hearts and the villagers chose him as their pradhan or representative. Now, he is serving the village with more enthusiasm.
Earlier, he had thought that spirituality is nothing but abandoning the society and keeping away from social problems. But with inspiration from Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, he realized that the real essence of spirituality is in serving the society, said Ramkrishna, panchayat pradhan of Kuthar Khurd.
Under the guidance of YLTP teachers Uday Sharma and Savina Sharma, he joined the Art of Living program, which gave him a new direction. It freed him from stress, and he wanted others also to experience the same physical and mental strength. Till now, 80 percent of the villagers have benefitted from the Art of Living programs. Almost 100 percent of the children and youth, and 80 percent of the adults take part in group sing-ing and meditation regularly.
This brought inner peace to the villagers and they developed a feeling of responsibility towards the society as well. The women came forward to clean up the village, and also started two Mahila Mandals (women’s groups), which took the responsibility of cleaning the village on a regular basis. Now, women and children take part enthusiastically to clean the streets every week. The panchayat received the Nirmal Gram Puraskar from the President of India in 2011.
Ravinder Ravi, Irrigation Minister of Himachal Pradesh, honored Swami Ramkrishna on 15thAugust 2010 with a certificate from Swasthya aur Pariwar Kalyan Vibhag for making families collect the highest number of smart cards in the panchayat. Smart card holders living below the poverty line get free health check-ups and medical facilities at govern-ment hospitals in the state. In his panchayat, almost all BPL (Below poverty line) families earned smart cards.
Forty students have enrolled for skill development courses at the Art of Living’s computer center. Earlier, they had to go 4-5 kilometers away from the village to learn, and most of them were not able to afford it. Even some of the schools here are not equipped to impart such education. But now everyone has easy access to computer education, and anyone who has an inclination to learn can join the courses.
Most of the houses in the village did not have toilets, and Ramkrishna inspired the villagers to build them on their own. Now, all the families in the panchayat have toilets.
In the local elections held in 2011, villagers proposed Ramkrishna’s name for the Pradhan’s post. He became the first unopposed Pradhan of the village. Though the government had sanctioned money for streetlights sometime ago, no one took the initiative for implementing it. After Ramkrishna became the Pradhan, he promptly completed the work and also installed more lights.
The roads of the village have also been re-laid, thanks to the Pradhan’s initiative. Many people were reluctant to giving a ‘no objection certificate’ to build roads. Ramkrishna convinced everyone and made them understand the importance of roads with regard to the village’s progress. Surjeet, who is working in the Indian Army, agreed to break the wall of his house to make way for roads. Construction of a proper drainage system was also essential to maintain hygiene in the village.
Senior citizens of the village were not aware of old age pension scheme. Swami Ramkrishna took the initiative and started the pension scheme for 18 senior citizens, who are now getting pension regularly. For the youngsters, different competitions and activities are organized on different occasions, which help in their all-round development.
The future plans include withdrawal of all the cases that are pending in various courts. The quarrels and fights have considerably gone down in the village. Regular Satsang (group singing) is conducted here, in which the young and the old take part enthusiastically. A training center for stitching and sewing empowers women in various skills.
Unemployment was another challenge in the panchayat, and a youth club was formed to solve the problem. Yuvacharya Rakesh Kumar became its president and encouraged the youth to get enrolled in the YLTP. This led to a marked reduction in the number of alcoholics and substance addicts. Now, they are trying to generate work for themselves by monitoring the activities of the village to make the program a big success.
Rakesh Kumar can be reached at +91 9817080056.
Reported by Meenakshi Chauhan.