The desire to help and be of service to the community may entice many well-meaning individuals to gravitate towards social work, but not many survive through the challenges that this work demands. Only a few who are determined to serve those in distresses have managed to work with passion. One such individual named Purshottam Bala has been involved in social work and community service for more than 15 years now. In spite of having the luxury to lead a comfortable life with a stable job, Purshottam has been selflessly serving people as he feels it is his moral duty to do so.
My City Links talks to him and finds out what inspired him towards social work and his vision for the society.
Tell us about your background.
I belong to non-descript village of Bhadrak district. Since my father was a teacher in a government school at Chandipur, so most of the early years of my life were spent in the village. My father was quite involved in the matters of the village and was always there to help people in times of their trouble, especially during the floods that took place almost every year. Thus, he has been an inspiration for me ever since.
Living in Bhubaneswar for so many years, do you still get to help the people of your village?
My work cannot be confined to any one place. Whenever, there is a flood in our district or village area, we go there and do whatever we can for the people. Nevertheless, as my Central Government job requires me to reside at Bhubaneswar, so, naturally most of my social activities happen in the city.
How did you get associated with social work?
As I said, my father has been an inspiration for me since my childhood. Every year, he used to buy food from his own funds and supply it to the flood victims, besides arranging health camps at school campuses where more than 200 people got a chance to get their cataract operated free of cost. Although, I ideally wanted to involve myself completely in social work, my job and other responsibilities took away a lot of my time. However, during the 1999 super cyclone, I dedicated myself completely to help victims of the cyclone-affected areas. Gradually, the state government noticed my work and I got call from the department concerned to help them in rescue operations, relief distribution and disposal of dead bodies. I happily accepted their invitation and joined in.
Has your job ever been a hindrance in your passion for social work?
No, I never felt that my job interfered with my social work. Instead, my job has always been a support that helped me do what I desire. I have been into social service for more than 15 years now, but haven’t been associated with any organisation. Therefore, I would generally have to arrange funds on my own. In such a case, my job has been a strength. Additionally, my wife who is a teacher in a government school has always been supportive of my work.
Being a social worker, what do you think are the main issues that plague the society?
I have noticed that poor health and lack of education are the two major issues that have diseased our society since a long time. Even after a cannon of policies that the government formulates every year to benefit the common people from different sections of the society, illiteracy and lack of knowledge about them make it problematic for the benefactors to avail those policies.
Health too is a concern as innumerable people die every year not from illness alone, but their ignorance of the availability of medical facilities and proper first aid services that could save their lives. Thus, it is vital that first aid training programmes are held at different places in the state frequently to spread awareness and avoid unnecessary deaths.
Has there been any memorable incidents while working as a social worker?
The time during the 1999 super cyclone has been quite memorable. Though filled with several small and significant incidents, I remember how my entire family was involved in the relief distribution work. One day when we came back after finishing our work, my son, who was 10 years old then, showed us two extra packets of biscuits that he had got but when he was told that the biscuits were for those who had nothing to eat, he returned them to the person concerned the next day. He also asked him to give the biscuit packets to the kids who were hungry.
How do you wish to see the city develop in future?
My aim is to make the city more efficient in providing proper health services to its denizens. I would want our city to have facilities similar to services in other metro cities where they have an ambulance bike available at a distance of every half kilometre, equipped with an aid machine and a first aid provider. I want such skilled volunteers to be ready for emergencies that might occur at different places in the city. We are also trying to get the government to work on our proposal to implement motorbike ambulance service at accident-prone areas.