Welcome to Harijan Sevak Sangh, Bengal !

The Harijan Sevak Sangh (HSS), an all India Non-Governmental Organization was founded by Mahatma Gandhi on September 30, 1932 following a large public meeting held in Bombay under the Presidentship of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. The meeting was attended by all leaders of repute from all over the country. The meeting was prompted by the epic fast of Gandhiji in Yervada Jail near Poona in protest against the nefarious design of Communal Award, which threatened to separate the so-called untouchables from the mainstream of Hindu Society. The British Government relented by this combined pressure and withdrew the award leading to breaking of fast by Mahatmaji. Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore went to Yervada Jail and gave a glass of fruit juice to Mahatmaji to enable him to break his fast. Harijan Sevak Sangh became the institutional edifice for translating into practice Gandhiji’s ideas of inclusiveness of various sections of the society. G.D. Birla was the first President of the Sangh while the luminaries like Gandhiji, Thakkar Bapa, Rameshwari Nehru and others remained the friend, philosopher and guide of the Sangh till their demise. Padmabibhusan Ms. Nirmala Deshpande, M.P., renowned Sarvodaya leader of the country had been the President of the Sangh till her demise on 1st May 2008. Sri Radhakishan Malviya, former Central Minister, Sri Laxmi Dass, former Chairman, Khadi & Village Industries Commission and Dr. H.P. Gannegi, Professor of Delhi University are the present President and Secretaries of the Sangh respectively. Since its inception, the Sangh has been tirelessly working for the achievement of its laudable aims by executing different development projects through its Branches all over India. Harijan Sevak Sangh, Bengal, the State level Branch of HSS is working throughout the State for the accomplishment of its lofty aims by implementing multifarious schemes of socio-economic & cultural developments and for realization of human rights, gender rights and liberation of people from the bondage of inhuman exploitation. In Bengal, her great sons like Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, Prafulla Chandra Sen (all ex-Chief Ministers of West Bengal), Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, Charu Chandra Bhandari, Dr. Satish Dasgupta, Sitaram Saksheria, Bhagirath Kanoria, Krishna Kumar Birla, Prof. Priya Ranjan Sen, Sakti Ranjan Bose and other renowned personalities adorned the post of the Chief Executive of the Sangh at various times. They decided to have an egalitarian set of objectives which encompassed the entire social strata living below the poverty line, downtrodden and marginalized. They had had the collective wisdom to perceive that socio-economic condition of Bengal was different from that of the rest of the country because of manifestation of untouchability was covert and that social ostracism was less visible due to the impact of social reforms during the 18th century renaissance. Presently, H.E. Shri M.K. Narayanan, Hon’ble Governor of West Bengal is the Patron-in-Chief, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Murari Mohan Dutt, Retd. Judge, Supreme Court of India, is the President, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Malay Sengupta, Retd. Chief Justice, Sikkim High Court and Shri Debobrata Bandopadhyay, MP, IAS, (Retd) former Secretary, Govt. of India and Director Asian Development Bank are the Vice Presidents. Prof. Sankar Kumar Sanyal, former Justice of the Peace and President of Howrah Chamber of Commerce & Industry is the Hon’y Secretary of the West Bengal State Branch of the Sangh. The Sangh started with the vital work of eradication of untouchability. Slowly and gradually its activities were spread to cover overall development of Harijans, Adibasis and Downtrodden by organizing various social welfare schemes in all the districts of West Bengal even in the remotest corners to fulfill the aims and objectives. Programmes designed for this are Balwadis, Crèches, Non-formal Educational Centers, Residential Primary School, Open Shelter for Children in Need of Care & Protection for child education, health care, nutrition, recreation, Shelter for Urban Homeless, Sanitation, Social Forestry, Smokeless Chullah (ovens) for protection of environmental and ecological balance, Low Cost Housing, Irrigation, Land Reclamation, Fishery, Weaving, Cashew-nut Processing Training-cum-Production Centers, Computer Training, Vocational Training in different trades to promote income generating programmes for the weaker section of the society, Camps, Seminars, Workshops, Conferences, Women Empowerment Programmes for awareness generation of self-consciousness and self-respect for the people and many other programmes. In Bengal, the Sangh performs its activities through its numerous branches and affiliated / associated organizations and established a number of child education centers in 12 districts catering few thousands children of the weaker section. Moreover, HSS, Bengal had been adjudged the number one agency for the promotion of non conventional energy in the entire country by installing more than four lacs Smokeless Chullah. Besides these the Sangh also organize Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) on REGP and PMEGP of KVIC, Govt. of India, Food Processing of Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Govt. of India as well as Department of Food Processing Industries & Horticulture, Government of West Bengal, Computer Assembly and Servicing of Dept. of Science and Technology, Govt. of West Bengal, SHG-Bank Linkage Training sponsored by NABARD and many other programmes. As we are entering the 2nd decade of the third millennium, we feel it necessary for introspection and reevaluation of the activities undertaken by the Bengal branch of Harijan Sevak Sangh during the last 80 years so as to ascertain how far we have traversed the path delineated by Gandhiji while establishing the Sangh in 1932. Division of the society on caste basis during the seventies has shifted the social concerns from the harijans to the newly invented other backward classes and the consequent socio-political turmoil. Reordering political alignment had also marginalized the issues dear to the Gandhians and to the Harijan Sevak Sangh, i.e., the emancipation of the harijans or the persons belonging to the so called ‘Scheduled castes’ under article 341(1) of the Indian Constitution. Pragmatic as it were, the Bengal branch rearranged its focus on the rural poor irrespective of caste, creed and religion since Bengal historically has more orientation towards class war than caste war thanks to the nineteenth century renaissance spearheaded by great leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Swami Vivekananda followed by influence of neo-intellectuals. Being part of the legacy left my Gandhiji for inclusive development of the society as a whole and the marginalized section of the society in particular, Sangh drew up a development paradigm described hereafter.

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