The low cost accommodation, medical aid and 24X7 help in hospital procedures to patients by Nana Palkar Smruti Samiti is the real tribute to late Nana Palkar whose birth centenary began on Aug 26
Mumbai-based Rugna Seva Sadan, which serves hundreds of patients and their attendants every day in different hospitals of the metro city, received a strange visitor from Siliguri in the last week of September 2016 who insisted that the wedding of his son would not be solemnised until the Sadan staffers and authorities attend the ceremony. He even offered air tickets to those from the Sadan who would join the wedding. When asked about the reason of his eccentric insistence, the visitor, Bikas Chakravarthy, revealed that it was because of the care and timely help from the Sadan that the life of his son, Biduran Chakravarthy, could be saved 18 years back. Biduran is now an IIT engineer in Bengaluru and the family feels that his wedding should be solemnised in the presence of those, who literally gave him new life.
A gifted writer and poet Narayan Hari Palkar, popularly called Nana Palkar, was Zilla Pracharak of RSS in Satara. He was also Pracharak in Raigarh. Throughout his life he strove to alleviate the pain and suffering of the sick and needy. After his untimely demise in March 1967, Nana Palkar Smruti Samiti (NPSS) was formed in 1968, to perpetuate his memory and pay him tribute in action.
Twenty years ago, five year-old Biduran along with his parents reached Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital for treatment of Bone Marrow. The hospital sought Rs 7 lakh, which was unaffordable for the family then. On the advice of doctors, the parents approached Nana Palkar Smruti Samiti (NPSS) for help. Even though the NPSS was not in a position to contribute that much amount, the authorities assured some help and told them to come after a week. With that assurance, the family returned to Siliguri to manage some funds at their level. Meanwhile, they got Rs four lakh from cricketer Saurabh Ganguly. With that aid when the family reached Mumbai, the Samiti provided two lakh rupees to them. That is how the treatment of Biduran was started at Tata Hospital. During the treatment, which lasted for several years, Biduran and his family stayed at the Sadan only. Though the Sadan does not allow anyone to stay for more than one month, this case was an exception. The kid received so much affection and care from the Sadan staff and authorities that he started calling many as Grandpa, Granny, etc. Finally, he got fully cured and returned back to Siliguri. The family remembered the NPSS contribution in saving Biduran’s life. Hence, both Biduran and his father Bikas Chakravarthy especially visited the Sadan in last week of September 2016 to formally invite the staffers for the wedding. The NPSS authorities happily accepted the invitation and three persons from the Sadan joined the wedding ceremony on December 9, 2016 in Siliguri, West Bengal.
This incident shows the impact of the initiative taken in 1968 under the banner of NPSS to help the patients visiting different hospitals of Mumbai from various parts of the country for specialised treatment. There are now thousands of other Bidurans of all age groups who got new life during the last 50 years with the help of dedicated and caring NPSS volunteers for whom ‘Service to Sick is Service to God'. The NPSS was formed in 1968 after untimely demise of RSS Pracharak Shri Narayan Hari Palkar in 1967 to carry forward his service sprit. His birth centenary year began on August 26 this year. Incidentally, this is the golden jubilee year of the NPSS.
| 50 Years of a Mission|
How the Idea got Shape
The work of caring the sick was started from a three-room flat situated at Sita Sadan, Mumbai. The persons who materialised this idea included Shri Narayan Bhide, Dr Madhavrao Paralkar, Shri Umesh J Nerurkar, Shri Anantrao aka Mama Sawarkar and Shri Krishnaji Chhatre, etc. Veteran Sangh Pracharak Shri Moropant Pingle also played a key role in giving shape to this project. Later, noted urologist of Mumbai Dr Ajit G Phadake took it
forward. In 1968, the people coming from outside Mumbai did not know much about the city and also how to and where from to get treatment. “The work basically began only to guide them in receiving the treatment. After getting a flat in Sita Sadan on rent, we started providing them accommodation also. We could then accommodate hardly 15 persons, that too was not much comfortable. After construction of Rugna Seva Sadan at Parel in 1997, we started providing accommodation to 76 patients. In the beginning we had only seven floors in the building. Additional three floors were added in 2004 on the suggestion of the then Commissioner of BMC, Shri Karuna Shrivastava, who even named the street as Rugna Seva Sadan. The same year, a dialysis centre and a pathology lab were started,” says Alkatai Savarkar, joint secretary of the NPSS while talking to Organiser.
At the moment, the total capacity of Rugna Seva Sadan is 228 persons. Most patients come from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, etc. The number of patients coming from Maharashtra is very small. Most patients come for treatment at Tata Cancer Hospital. There are many hospitals in nearby area, which include Wadia Children Hospital, Tata Memorial Cancer hospital, KEM Hospital, JJ Hospital, St George’s, Nair, etc. Tata Hospital is at the distance of just 10 minutes walk from the Sadan.The Ambulance service provides low cost transportation to patients for connecting them to key Railway Stations. It also has a pick up and drop facility for patients going to Tata, KEM and Wadia hospitals in the vicinity. This facility is provided free of cost to the patients. Those accompanying the patients pay Rs 5/- per person for the services.
Dialysis for Rs 350
The initial four machines for Dialysis Centre were donated by Shri Gokhale of Bombay Chemicals Pvt Ltd, the manufacturers of Kachua Chaap mosquito coil. Now there are total 14 dialysis machines. “We keep one machine standby and 13 machines are used at a time. So, 13 dialysis are done at a time. Since we have three shifts for patients in dialysis centre, we conduct 39 dialysis every day. In April 2017, we crossed one lakh dialysis mark here,” reveals Alkatai. Interestingly, since 2004, the NPSS charges only Rs 350 for per dialysis. However, it has to spend Rs 900 on every dialysis now. There are some patients who cannot afford even this small amount. For them the NPSS has arranged some funds so that their dialysis should continue without break. The Samiti also has a well equipped Pathology Lab where most of the Blood Tests are conducted at the rates affordable to the patients.
Meals for Rs 10
Another major initiative by the NPSS is to provide meals to the patients and their attendants in Sadan and also in other hospitals like KEM, Wadia, etc. In Wadia Hospital, the Government provides milk to the newborn kids, but nothing to their mothers. So, meal is provided to those mothers by the NPSS. Fruits are also distributed every week among patients in some hospitals. Additionally, about 200 chapatis are sent to the Nair Hospital for the patients and their attendants. “Hospital is the place where bank
balance does not support for long. It is more in case of Tata Cancer Hospital as cancer treatment is very costly. We do not charge anything for accommodation, but charge Rs 35 for per meal. Our attendants check every room twice or thrice a day to ensure that proper hygiene is there. They noticed that a plate of meal was shared by two-three attendants, as they could not afford separate plate for each person. There were some who could not afford even Rs 35 per plate and went to roadside vendors to satisfy their hunger with Rs 10 Vada Pav. It touched us so deeply that we decided to ensure that the meal tariff is within the reach of everyone. Therefore, from July 2016, we have started providing meal to every person at Rs 10 only. The breakfast is provided at Rs 5,” adds Alkatai.
Care for TB Patients
Sewri TB hospital of Mumbai is infamous because anybody admitted there hardly goes back home. Even after recovery the family members do not take them back. Hence, the TB patients feel very lonely. Only those who ask for their well being once a week are the NPSS volunteers. “We carry seasonal fruits with us and distribute them to about 1,200 patients every week. It is consistently being done for the last 15 years. This group includes three women who are very committed and accompany the fruit van provided by a local person on every Thursday. After TB Hospital, the team goes to Wadia Children Hospital and then Tata Cancer Hospital. By and large fruits are distributed to 1,500 patients every week,” says Alkatai.
Tuberculosis patients require expensive medicines and regular follow up treatment. The TB Centre spends over Rs 1.50 lakh per month to provide check-ups and medicines to 40-50 patients. Dr KG Kulkarni, a senior chest specialist, has been empanelled to examine these patients.
TB is now surely a curable disease. But the painful stories of the patients in Sewri TB Hospital paints a grim picture. Changing this mindset is another challenge before the NPSS volunteers. “Each TB patient has a painful story. In first week of June I myself witnessed a husband admitting his wife in the Hospital. He told the lady to go upstairs and said he would come back next week to see her. That lady said ‘I know you will never come now. I have to live here only. And she left hiding her tears. We are seriously thinking to start a project for generating awareness about TB,” Alkatai says. However, a counselling centre, Prabhakar Kutumba Kalyan Kendra, is run to counsel the TB and HIV patients. On every Tuesday and Friday, a lady, Smt Mati Mahendra, does this work free of cost. She has been doing this for the last 10 years. She was working in Mahindra & Mahindra, but she left the job to devote more time to the patients.
The NPSS also provides financial aid from Rs 5,000 to 7,000 to the needy patients so that their treatment begins at the earliest. It is necessary because the treatment in hospitals does not begin until the initial amount is deposited. “In the beginning we could spare about Rs 50,000 per month for such patients, but now we are able to spare Rs seven lakh per month for them,” says Alkatai. The Samiti also organises blood donation camps to ensure that the Rugna Seva Sadan patients get blood when it is required.
Day Care Centre for Elderly People
The NPSS has two more branches, one in Borivali and another in Thane, where various types of basic medical equipments required by patients like bedpan, sticks, wheelchairs, oxygen cylinders, etc are provided free of cost. “Whatever is required by the patients is available with us. These items are issued against a surity deposit, which is returned back when the items are returned. In Borivali, an eye, dental and physiotherapy clinic is run. A eading eye hospital there provides specialised treatment to the patients referred by us. In Thane, a day care centre for elderly persons was started three years back. It runs from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm and takes care the elderly and physically weak who do not have any attendant at home. Now we are going to start a physiotherapy centre also there,” says Alkatai. We are also planning to set up a dialysis centre at Thane in near future. Since, Thane is a Vanvasi dominated area, the NPSS has been providing vitamin rich food to the children there. The initiative has proved to be highly effective.
There are a total of 39 paid employees and many volunteers at Rugna Seva Sadan in Mumbai. The volunteers are attached to the project very emotionally. There are two lady volunteers, aged 82 and 85. One comes from Ghatkoper and the other from Sion. They come only to ask for well being of the patients. Children call them granny.
Smt Juvekar, the popular Bangla writer, has contributed 200 books for the Bangla patients. Rugna Mitra, a house journal, is also published. A yoga centre is being run for about 18 years.
NPSS & Shivanand Lavekar Dispensary
Apart from the patients from outside, the needs of local communities are taken care of through the Diagnostic Centre. Medicines, dressings/ bandage, etc are dispensed with at nominal rates in the Sadan. Similiar services are made available at Shivanand Lavekar Dispensary near Tata Hospital, where consultancy and diagnostic facilities are provided at Rs 10 only.
Plans for Golden Jubilee Celebration
At the moment, the NPSS provides shelter to 228 persons in Rugna Seva Sadan. Hence, the waiting list is very long. Those who do not get accommodation anywhere stay at the temporary shelters built on the footpath outside hospitals.
Many times police and BMC authorities raze their shelters and harass them. Keeping it in view, the NPSS is in the process of purchasing a piece of land so that more patients and their attendants could be provided with accommodation. The patients are accommodated only for one month. Then they vacate and the patients enrolled in waiting list are adjusted.
During the birth centenary of the late Shri Nana Palkar the Samiti has decided to re-print all his books. “Nana has written the first authentic biography of RSS founder Dr Hedgewar. His book on Israel is still a fascinating one for the readers. Many Jews returned to Israel after reading that book. There was a street in the name of Nana Palkar in Israel,” points out Alkatai.
These initiatives by Nana Palkar Smruti Samiti show how to alleviate the sufferings of the people that they face while visiting various specialty hospitals of big cities in search of better treatment.
If similar steps are taken in other cities also time, energy and money that the large number of people have to waste in hospital queues for want of knowledge could be saved and they would be ensured better and low cost health facilities. n