The Business School at Sri Sathya Sai University – Part 7

Social Service Activities

Social service activities in this context refer to all other activities relating to self-reliance and co-curricular programmes, which are undertaken in the Institute and Hostel at regular intervals. These include maintenance of the playground, gardens, auditorium, prayer hall, electrical installations and plumbing, audio-visual equipment and development of horticulture around the campus buildings, organisation of dramatics, photography, painting, compilation of books and audio-visual material, etc.
A student at the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus working in the Maintenance Department of the Hostel
The students extend considerable logistic support to various cultural activities that take place all through the year in the Ashram premises wherein Baba and other general public congregate, besides the students. During festivals and other functions, stage management including putting up of massive sets, audio-visual equipment and other aspects of the cultural programmes such as costumes, dance and music are all managed by the students themselves.
Students of the Brindavan Campus taking care of the electrical maintenance of the Hostel

Students of the Brindavan, Anantapur and Prasanthi Nilayam Campus Hostels participating in the social service programmes on Sunday mornings

Grama Seva (Voluntary Service in Rural Areas)

Through social work and extension programmes, students learn to help the poor, the unfortunate, the disabled and the sick. The Institute seeks to shape students’ sensitivities to social problems through various social service activities. In the first two decades of the Institute’s existence, the students and faculty undertook social afforestation programmes, which converted the wastelands and balded-hills, in and around Prasanthi Nilayam, into a green belt. The students and faculty also embarked on planting of coconut, mango, drumstick, curry-leaf and papaya saplings in selected villages around Prasanthi Nilayam and conducted free medical-aid camps. From the year 2000 onwards, the rural service programme (Grama Seva) underwent a change and took a different format based on Baba’s guidance and instructions. In this new format of Grama Seva, the students and the faculty go to nearly 150 villages every year in the three Mandals (revenue units) of Puttaparthi, Kothacheruvu and Bukkapatnam in the Anantapur district during the nine days of the Navaratri festival, which occurs in the months of September-October, and distribute food and clothes to their rural brethren. The sublime goal of Grama Seva (village service) is to sensitise the students about the lives and living conditions of people in rural India.

The Grama Seva activity involves a great deal of planning and gives a very good experience to the students and staff in gaining a firsthand knowledge about the problems of people in the remote villages. The faculty and other support staff go for advance survey of the villages and collect the census data and the road maps of all the villages in the three Mandals (numbering over 150). They prepare the detailed road maps, meet the local village-heads and collect the data regarding the number of households, population figures, number of schools and other educational institutions along with their strength, etc. The Central Planning Committee divides the entire strength of the Institute and other affiliated educational institutions into six major groups. Each group is given about 5-6 trucks (one to each sub-group), each fitted with a wire-less set. A detailed schedule is prepared in advance, for the entire period of nine days. Separate clusters of villages are allocated to each group for each of the nine days and the students and staff belonging to those groups service the villages allocated to them on the particular day.

Students and staff of the Anantapur Campus assisting in cooking and packing of about 25,000 food packets every night 
The lady teachers and the girl students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institutions pack the food that has been prepared by nearly 100 cooks during the early hours of the morning. The food is packed in small packets (each weighing approximately 500 grams) and arranged by the students in plastic crates. 
Students of the Prasanthi Nilayam and Brindavan campuses assisting in loading the crates into the vehicles

The food packets and the clothes (saris for women and dhotis for men) are then loaded into each truck by another group in-charge of loading, in accordance with the requirements of the villages (based on census details gained earlier) to be visited by each group on the specified day.
The convoy of 40 vehicles leaving the Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram for distribution
The convoy on the rural roadways on their way to the identified villages for the day
On each day of Grama Seva, about 40 - 50 vehicles (trucks, tractors, pickup-vans, etc.) go in a convoy to different groups of villages early in the morning. Each group goes to the assigned villages, goes around the village doing Nagar Sankirtan (collective singing of devotional songs by a group of people while moving through the lanes of the village). After this, the students and staff distribute the food and clothes with love and care to the members of every house in the village at their doorstep. In each village, stationery material is distributed to the students in their respective classrooms in the schools.
Singing of devotional songs by students before commencing the distribution in the villages
Distribution of food and clothing by students and staff of the Institute to villagers across the 150 villages

The real beneficiary of the Grama Seva Project
Each vehicle is in constant touch with the central communication base through the wireless communication network, and whenever there is any deficit of food or clothes, or any other problem, it is attended to by the ‘crisis-management group’ on instructions from the central communication base at the headquarters at Prasanthi Nilayam. At the conclusion of the day’s work, the students and teachers of each sub-group partake the same food as their lunch on their way back to Prasanthi Nilayam.
Gram Seva Coverage

Continued in Part 8…

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