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Establishment of the Indian Branch

Origin of the text
Olivier Bertrand: Breaking down barriers 1945-1975, 30 years of voluntary service for peace with Service Civil International.
Paris (2008)

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Establishment of the Indian Branch

SCI office in a Quonset hut in Faridabad 1957

SCI office in a Quonset hut in Faridabad 1957

In 1957 the group achieved Branch status with Parashiva Murthy debuting as the first Indian National Secretary. The National Committee moved the SCI offices to Faridabad, outside of New Delhi – the site of the first post-independence work. Officials gave SCI three Quonset huts that had once been used in the relief work. One was reserved for the office, and personal quarters of the Secretary. One was for women volunteers and the other for male volunteers. However, there were no phones and bus service to Delhi was unreliable and round-about so any business in the city took all day. Furthermore, local members could not easily gather, so the low cost of the office and housing was at the expense of efficiency. The office returned to New Delhi in 1958 to share the garage of the National Youth Hostel Association, later joined by the Asian Secretariat, finally settling in K5 Green Park for the last four decades.

Valli writes about the Indian office: “Affectionately referred to as ‘K5’ by SCI volunteers from everywhere, it is the number of the house where the SCI-India secretariat is situated in New Delhi till now. It is a place/home from where myriads of SCIers lived, worked, discussed, made decisions for SCI (and themselves?!) for nearly four decades!!

In the early 70s, administrative work was done by Bhupendra Kishore (then new National Secretary of SCI-I), Fiona Williams (Ferguson), a British LTV and Valli Seshan (Chairperson) who formed the ‘office team’. Valli writes: “SCI had just been asked to vacate their premises, the garage of the National Youth Hostel Association, under whose patronage it had been since moving to New Delhi from Faridabad Town. I approached Fr. Loesch, a German Jesuit priest who headed the Indo-German Social Service Society (still exists). He had been in India for several years and was a good friend and supporter of SCI. My request to him was for a recommendation for the use of garage space at any of the Catholic agencies, using his influence. Fr.Loesch was amused that the request was for a garage again. He suggested that we explore the possibility of a rented accommodation and come back to him. Soon after, he informed us that a spacious two-bed room house was available in Green Park for 450 rupees a month (about US$10). Fr. Loesch generously wrote out a cheque for two years’ rent and gave it to us. None of us could have expected that four decades later, K5 would almost be the ‘property’ of SCI India. (The landlords left India and the tenants are there by default.) K5 is in a flourishing part of New Delhi today. Looking back, it feels like a dream. Fr. Loesch passed away even before the 2 years were over. Had he lived, he would have been happy and not so happy with all that SCI managed to do well/and not so well in the following years from the premises he bequeathed to SCI.

Phyllis Clift (Sato), Hiroatsu Sato and Valli Chari (Seshan) below and Thedy von Fellenberg write about this period.

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