Sanjeev K. Sharma
Known for humanitarian activities, International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) braves many hurdles to ensure help to the sufferers of turmoil in this world.
ICRC started its activities in India in 1920 with the government backing.
In the City of Temples, IRCS is popularly known as Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) and has an office at Kachi Chawani which acts as it’s headquarter for Jammu Division.
In an exclusive interaction with the Excelsior, Mr. Dinesh Gupta, Honorary Secretary of IRCS Jammu threw light on many things including difficulties being faced by the organisation in accomplishing its activities.
Mr. Gupta said that IRCS was established solely to give auxiliary support to war victims and enumerated the activities of IRCS in Jammu as:
* Helping militancy victims.
* Helping poor victims of accidents, natural calamities, disasters etc.
* Providing all kind of support to orphan and poor children to get education. Some children are even getting education in private institutions with the help of IRCS.
* Helping specially-abled poor persons by giving them wheel chairs, hearing aids, crutches etc free of cost and helping them for treatment, wherever possible.
* RC Jammu runs free of cost prosthetic centre in collaboration with Government Medical College Jammu where many accidents/blast victims are given artificial limbs and other appliances totally free.
* RC’s Physiotherapy centre at Red Cross Attendant Sarai works on ‘No Profit No Loss Basis’.
* In rainy season RC gives tents, tarpaulins etc to the poor and needy people and also helps them in winters by giving warm clothes.
* In case of fire incidents RC gives household items like utensils, clothes, beddings and in certain cases financial assistance etc to the victim families besides books to the affected children.
* RC also provides medicines, surgical items etc to unidentified or poor patients at Government hospitals besides financial aid to poor patients of life threatening diseases.
* RC Jammu has an ambulance service which operates at ‘No Profit No Loss Basis’.
* RC Jammu dispensary provides free consultations and medicines to the poor.
* RC Jammu diagnostic laboratory serves public charging very less.
* RC organises Junior/ Youth Red Cross activities and sponsors students for inter-state Red Cross Peace Camps.
* RC Jammu gives First Aid training to volunteers.
* Runs training cum production centre to train young widows and destitute women of border areas in stitching, tailoring, making cloth bags etc.
* In collaboration with Jammu Municipal Corporation it has started Incense Stick making units at Peerkho and Bahu Fort.
The Honorary Secretary informed that funds to run activities of Red Cross come from RC membership fee, volunteers, during certain drives, from contribution by employees, from educational institutions and also during Red Cross Mela’s Raffle Draw. He also said that Red Cross has no direct funding by government and also there is no source of regular income to Red Cross.
Mr. Gupta said they have to pay regular salaries to their staff and relief to many needy people. The IRCS Headquarters gives material support to RC Jammu by providing medicines, blankets, tents, tarpaulin, utensils etc.
Help to Insane People
Mr Gupta further said, “We are ready in every way to help insane people commonly found at roadsides but much more cooperation of all agencies especially the psychiatry and other hospitals is essentially required. We are even ready to give additional medical support and attendants at Psychiatry Hospital for abandoned mentally ill people but the Psychiatry Hospital should at least willingly accept and accommodate these people to cure them. I personally appeal to those at the helm at psychiatry hospital to personally look into the issue on humanitarian grounds.”
For timely and effective delivery of aid and relief during any untoward incident, Mr. Gupta said: “There should be preparedness and proper coordination between different volunteer organisations like Indian Red Cross Society, NCC, NSS, Civil Defence etc which can work as helping hands. Such organisations should meet at least once in three months to make plans for effective launch of operations during calamities, disasters etc. They should remain ready across the J&K UT for any relief and rescue operation and should also conduct timely exercises to check their preparedness.”
He recalled the 2005 devastating earthquake which inflicted heavy losses in J&K and said that there was total chaos on October 8, 2005 and he being Secretary, IRCS, Jammu District Branch, was given additional responsibility to act as Nodal Officer Relief on behalf of the State Government.
“A temporary office at Railway Station, Jammu was established where relief material was being received through MHA and various other agencies for sending the same to various destinations in consultations with the then Divisional Commissioner, B.R Sharma. Surprisingly, in the first two-three days, while the relief material was moving, miscreants started looting it en-route,” he said adding that things have not changed much even today and coordinated efforts are needed.
Mr. Gupta said: “Supportive role of government is of utmost importance. District Red Cross bodies needs to be strengthened to increase activities which will not only enhance awareness level but will also improve its credit. The government should look for some alternative funding sources to RC. Government officers can involve Red Cross functionaries/volunteers and take their help in many flagship programmes of the government to encourage them and in this way enhancing outreach with better results. There should also be Red Cross Bhawans at district level for effective services.
“RC Jammu’s claim of about Rs. 70.00 lakh for reimbursement is pending with the Health and Family Welfare Department and we are hopeful to get the same soon to help us to give more help to poor and needy people,” he maintained.
Mr. Gupta informed that President of India remains President of IRCS and Union Health Minister remains Chairman of IRCS’s National Managing Body.
At State/Union Territory level, Governor/Lt. Governor is President, CM Vice President while at Division level, Divisional Commissioner is Chairman and at District level DC is Chairman of RC. Apart from this many senior government functionaries are ex-officio Members of RC.
Association with RC
Mr. Dinesh Gupta started working with Red Cross from 1987 as committee member and was elevated to the post of District Secretary in the year 1992 where he continued till 2009. In the year 2007, he conducted free health check-up of around 4 lakh students of Jammu District.
After that he went to Chandigarh and remained associated with Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh Red Cross and restarted his services from Feb 7, 2018 as Honorary Secretary of IRCS Jammu Division where he is still continuing. He is also a recipient of Red Cross President Gold Medal in the year 2014.