Rashtirya Seva Samithi (RASS) has been established in 1981, with its registered office at Tirupati of Chittoor District in Andhra Pradesh, South India, Rashtriya Seva Samithi (formerly known as Rayalaseema Seva Samithi) presently operates in four States of India viz., Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Delhi.
RASS is currently implementing 39 different welfare and development programmes with the funding support from Government of India, State Governments and International donor agencies and philanthropists.
The emphasis on woman and child development, the disabled, the disadvantaged sectors of the people and on rural development. However, RASS serves all the sections of needy in the society who deserve its services. RASS designed its programmes to suit the requirements of different positions in life cycle. It has programme presence in over 2560 villages. Through these programmes RASS is serving around 3.10 million populations in 04 States. RASS HR comprises 2100 regular, part-time interns and volunteers 3000 volunteer workers, who rendered their service for the humanity some were relieved due to phase out of different program after 28 years committed and rendered services.
RASS believes in community participation. It ensures community participation in need identification, designing, implementing, contributing and monitoring. RASS facilitates the community in the process of asset creation, ownership and management. It promotes community owned, operated and managed people’s institutions.
Historical analysis and integrated development programmes to determine their effectiveness in reducing the incidence of poverty has led to a steady increase in the number of persons living above the poverty line. However, the overall improvement has not lived up to the expectations. Poverty is a social phenomenon and the approach to eradicate, requires coordinated participation of all organizations both governmental and non-governmental Community Based Organizations (CBO).
By and large, the under privileged and neglected sections of the population are unaware of the systems which inhibit the road to progress and prosperity. How to respond to the problems and issues of the working masses both in rural and urban areas was the fundamental question which bothered the founders of Rashtriya Seva Samithi (RASS). RASS, in its 28 years of committed action in the development sector, has always responded to the needs of the population. As a national Community Based Organization, RASS has a focused outlook on human resource development, economic development and encouraging attitudinal changes for self management of resources. At RASS, comprehension of the root causes of problems and issues in the community are followed with educating and organizing the population to adopt permanent solutions within the existing socio-economic, cultural and political matrix.
Since 1981, this CBO has emphasized on the multiple processes to overcome all forms of inequity-subtle and blatant practices in all segments of the society. Discrimination in nutrition, health, educational opportunities, benefits and at times denial of their existential reality, when coupled with lack of access to all types and forms of community resources and prevalent societal attitudes, restrict the visions and aspirations of the affected population. Such persistent happenings propel the population into submitting to an iniquitous social order. RASS has also observed that poverty per se aggravates the degree of gender inequality; rendering women voiceless, isolated and deprived of access to productive resources. All this contributes to the marginalization of women. Having considered the multiple factors, which affect population development and that of women and children in particular, as a CBO, RASS started several community initiatives to meet the socio-environmental challenges of poverty.
RASS initially choose to work in the rain shadow Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh viz., Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur and Kurnool districts. The complex problems of this region in terms of monsoon dependent agriculture, poor water and irrigation potential, soil-climate complex, heavy population of the socio-economically disadvantaged SC and BC groups have made Rayalaseema one of the most backward regions in A.P. Low degree of urbanization, aggravated unemployment, negligible presence of the industrial sector, very limited availability of public services such as primary health, education, housing, sanitation and drinking water supply and widespread habitations are predominant features of Rayalaseema region. The environmental degradation in terms of rapid denudation of forest cover, soil erosion, the declining water table and the poor maintenance of water harvesting structures have added to the woes of this region.
In the early years, RASS confined itself to the Rayalaseema region for its core operational ventures. In Rayalaseema, Chittoor district was chosen as the priority area in 1981 since, there was hardly any NGO working for the community at the time, in this district. Also, the few NGOs which were working had confined themselves to institutionalized welfare activities rather than extension activities. At the beginning, RASS had three programme activities which were carried out by a small band of 15 workers, in 8 villages, covering a population of 0.003 million. Today, RASS has programme presence in four states of India – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Delhi. The programme activities have increased significantly and cover 3.10 million people in 2560 villages, served by 3695 programme volunteers. Having a budget of Rs.7.5 million, RASS is taking the help of Govt. of India, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Govt. of Tamil Nadu, Govt. of Orissa and several International Agencies. The generous support and technical assistance provided by all stakeholders engaged in the development sector has enabled RASS to improve the scope of its activities through multi dimensional strategies. During the last 28 years, at RASS, the exponential growth in community based undertakings has led to acquisition of skills, knowledge, competence and expertise among the dedicated and motivated RASS personnel.
Today, RASS has a fairly large administrative infrastructure and logistic support system. The massive office cum training complex of RASS, with a carpet area of 32000 sq. ft., is in the central part of the Tirupati town of Andhra Pradesh. It is designed to accommodate the central administrative office, challenged children’s school, micro-finance federation, capacity building institute, special education training center, human resource development center and training cum production centre for women centered activities documentation and research unit. In addition, RASS has acquired a chain of community-cum-training centers at Pichatur, Papanaidupet, Chittoor, RASS Vanasthali, Sahaya Gram and Karveti Nagar, where integrated school, vocational training, community based programmes, community group meetings and awareness building activities are conducted on a regular basis.
One of the major acquisitions of RASS is the 50 ha., tract of virgin land which RASS has converted into cultivable land with community participation. The Acharya Ranga Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Farm Science Centre) designed to propagate modern agricultural practices is located here. The Acharya Ranga Krishi Vigyan Kendra has become a focal point for agricultural demonstrations, replications and training of farmers and field level functionaries. This kendra has been named after the kisan leader and senior veteran parliamentarian, late Prof. N.G. Ranga.
For the establishment of a model habitation for the disabled, the destitute, the deserted, the aged and handicapped, RASS has acquired a 12 ha., piece of land near Tirupati. Christened as Sahaya Gram, the village is being shaped as a self sufficient model habitation for the challenged people, aged, destitute and deserted women with integrated school, hospital and a vocational training center to accommodate more than 600 persons from above target groups.
All said and done, no NGO can afford to be oblivious to the fact that it alone cannot deal with the larger macro socio-economic policies or micro structural issues in TOTO. It is only through legislation and democratic action that the fundamental structural issues can be resolved. But NGOs can play a pivotal role in bringing the reforms through social action and development models at micro level, which can be replicated elsewhere. It is towards this ultimate goal that RASS rededicates itself.