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Golden period in SCI-India

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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Golden period in SCI-India

The words ‘perfect storm’ have come to mean a coalescing of separate events that when combined together produce catastrophe. The opposite of that appeared in the late `60s through the `70s in India, producing a ‘golden period’. This may have been duplicated in other countries but we don’t have contributions for this book that detail them. One event was on the occasion of SCI’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1970. The Delhi government had undertaken slum clearance, and SCI began a long-term project with those slum dwellers who were resettled in Nangoli colony. 50 volunteers (to mark the 50th anniversary) were assembled for 100 days to build a dispensary building. Another event was the assumption of National Secretary (NS) duties by Bhuppy Kishore, assisted by a succession of British LTVs (John Hitchins, Fiona Ferguson, Liz McClean) in the office to assist in fund-raising, correspondence and publicity.

This potent combination of a strong and creative NS, with very able LTVs, created a vibrant atmosphere. The Walks for Peace organized by the office not only raised money but generated publicity and attracted more volunteers. The office in K5 became a magnet. Another event was Valli Seshan assuming chairmanship of the National Committee. She was able to inspire a new direction and secured Bhuppy’s cooperation. The Seshans also had an open house at C8 in New Delhi, and that became an immense help for LTVs to be able to interpret their problems, get advice, feel at home and get re-energized. Another open house was developing in the South at Visionville outside of Bangalore, receiving visits of Indian and foreign LTVs and hosting short-term workcamps, and later orientation for incoming and outgoing volunteers. Long-term projects had been added in Bihar, Vedantangal and Shahdara and in 1971 there was relief work with refugees from East Pakistan. (See Martin Pierce, Juliet Hill Pierce, Fiona Ferguson, Solveig Starborg, Marie Catherine Petit and John Neligan) The long-term projects and their challenges, the active workcamp schedule, the dynamic office, the committed LTVs and the open houses all combined to touch many peoples’ lives in deep ways.

In 1974 an Exchange Program was initiated by the Indian Branch as a means to solve the visa problems. Since 1 year visas became so difficult to obtain, programs were planned for three month periods, and a steady stream of Indians were also sent to Europe. A State of Emergency was declared in India in June 1975 and lasted for 18 months with a suspension of elections and civil liberties. This had an effect on SCI activity and also meant the demise of Visionville as long-term visas were rescinded.

 




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