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Category Archives: social worker

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Combating Covid: Tale of a silent warrior in India

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While the media across the world are covering stories of ‘celebrity’ donations amid the Covid pandemic, there are fewer stories about the real heroes who’re battling on the ground and fighting silently behind-the-scenes, away from media glare without bothering about publicity and media blitz.

Tucked away in the remote villages of central India, a septuagenarian doctor (who’s been battling to run a school for poverty-ridden tribal girls since 1992 against insurmountable odds) is now fighting another battle: providing food and essentials to the poor Baiga tribal community.

Pondki, a village, 498km from Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh (central India)

The battleground is Pondki, 498km from Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh, India and leading the battle from the front is Dr Prabir Sarkar.

“I understand desperate times call for desperate measures. And social distancing is the only way to stem the spread of this deadly virus. But, for the Baiga tribal community, hunger is the everyday ‘virus’ they confront even in ordinary times,” the 71-year-old bachelor, who’s reluctant to hog the media spotlight, said.

On March 24 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown at 8pm, Dr Sarkar knew the challenges ahead — from reaching out to the Baigas living in inaccessible terrain to abysmal health care facilities.

Villagers wait their turn to get rice and vegetables

“In normal circumstances, I face huge funds crunch and literally beg for funds to run my charitable school,” he said. “Without funds how would I save these poor tribal people in this challenging and difficult times? I know how tough it’d be to raise funds now,” he added.

Vikas Chandel, a student from Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, and some locals pitched in and extended support to Dr Sarkar and joined the battle. “It’s a monumental task, especially transporting groceries and food to the needy as the poor people live in the remote forests in the hills and the road condition is appalling,” Chandel said.

Dr Sarkar and his brigade have been providing food every day to 24 villages — Gadhi Dadar, Pyari, Katurdona, Garjanbija, Harrapani, Hirnachhapar, Sanchara, Bijaura, Dumartola, Bendi Baigantola, Bhatibara, Maikal Pahar, Dadra Silwari, Khale Bhavar, Jaitahri, Shitalpani, Belapani, Pakripani, Navatola, Jaleswartola, Farrisemar, Miriya, Sarhakona and Umargohan — in Anuppur district.

Volunteers arrange vegetables before distribution as villagers wait maintaining ‘social distancing’

“I’m grateful to my volunteers – Hari Shankar Kumar, Dipendra Tyagi, Makhan Singh, Yedukondalu and Naseer. All my efforts would have been futile without their untiring and selfless service. They never grumble; they never whine. They’ve been slogging braving the heat and dust to transport the essential items to the poor,” he said.

“I’m coordinating with the district administration,” he said. Chandra Mohan Thakur, the district collector, has provided 25 quintals of rice and Rs 1000-1300 per family for 10 days. “I don’t know what will happen after that,” he said.

The central government is focusing only on cities and suburban areas; it hardly cares for the devastating impact the pandemic virus will have on these tribals, he said.

With funds running out fast, a worried Dr Sarkar has sought help from public. Even though the response has been lukewarm, he’s not unnerved; his commitment is unwavering. “We’ll continue our battle despite knowing more difficult and challenging days lie ahead,” he added, his invincible spirit and unflinching zeal unmistakable.

Volunteers deliver food packets at door step

“In a corporate-driven globalized world, where money is the motive and fraud is the means and only business and profiteering matter, the ‘virus’ has shown how fragile and vulnerable we humans are,” he said. “In a world of brutal inequality and unbridled greed, the coronavirus is a great equalizer.”

As the sun slowly disappears on the horizon and darkness descends over the hills, Dr Sarkar sits down and urges his men to prepare for tomorrow’s battle. He knows the battle is far from over; he knows he has “promises to keep and miles to go before he sleeps”.

Villagers wait under the blazing sun to receive food and essential items

A face of hunger and deprivation

Dr Prabir Sarkar (in the middle) with his army

Your empathy for these poor folks and even a small contribution can make Dr Sarkar’s Mission Possible.

Donations from India

Beneficiary’s name: Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Sevashram

Account number: 11512670177
Bank: State Bank of India, Amarkantak
IFSC Code: SBIN0004674

Donations from abroad

Beneficiary’s name: Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Sevashram

Foreign Currency Account Number – 32695670646
Bank – State Bank of India, Amarkantak
IFSC Code – SBIN0004674

Please make donation in INR (Indian rupees)

Dr Sarkar’s organization is eligible to receive foreign funds under government of India Foreign Currency Regulation (FCR) Act

  1. Donations are exempt under section 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
  2. The organization is registered under section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961.



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A caring hand

Dr Jack Preger has been working selflessly for the poor in Kolkata since 1980. But few heard his name as he’s self-effacing and always preferred keeping him out of public eye.

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Amarkantak: In search of solitude

As Azad Hind Express chugged out of howling Howrah station at 10pm, I said goodbye to Calcutta’s chaos and cacophony. A much-needed break I was looking for! What a relief!
Our destination: Amarkantak via Bilaspur
Objective: to attend the 151th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda at Ma Saradakanya Vidyapith (a tribal girls’ school) at Pondki, a sleepy village 12kms from Amarkantak. The school is run by septuagenarian Dr Prabir Sarkar.

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Community care

Hong Kong Sathya Sai Centre has been doing a yeomen’s service for the local community, providing charity for the poor and needy, and imparting values-based education to parents and children.
As a spiritual organization, the centre, located at Tsim Tsa shui, Kowloon, has three wings – Seva (or service), Spiritual and Education, says Ashok Sakhrani, National chairman of the Hong Kong Sathya Sai Centre. There are also a Ladies’ Wing and a Youth Wing.

Read my full article on this outstanding community work, published in China Daily.

A second chance

The name is absolutely apt. It gives you truly a second chance for a new life!

Based in Switzerland, 2nd Chance, a non-profit organization, does reconstructive surgery in emerging countries. Their motto is: Reconstruction Surgery for Life Reconstruction.

The association provides the academic and technical framework needed by surgeons who are willing to use their knowledge to help traumatized patients. Mutilated by congenital defects, burns or war wounds, or suffering from crippling diseases, many people wait for a surgical treatment which will enable them to begin their lives anew.
A guy named Gregory Grobon in the U.S. rode on his bike across the country to raise funds for 2nd Chance. He travelled from Los Angeles to New York, covering 5,770 km through 14 states, in 9 weeks.

For more information on 2nd Chance, log on to their website www.2nd-chance.org.

The Good Doctor

Amarkantak (Madhya Pradesh, India):

Dr. Pabitra Sarkar, AmarkantakDr Prabir Sarkar is a young man at 62. His boundless energy and indomitable spirit at this age is awe-inspiring. He has been waging a virtual war against educational inequality in a faraway place in the state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) in India.
His is a story of unwavering commitment, selflessness and relentless pursuit for the good of humankind. His mission: Ensuring primary education for poverty-ridden Baiga (most primitive tribe in the state) tribal girls in MP’s Anuppur district.

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