SHOPIAN: Shopian district of south Kashmir once had no group or organisation to help the poor and needy in their hard times. All it had for aid services were several religious outfits that would drain money from the public, to later use for their own comforts and for those of their children.
Then finally there came the Rehmatan-lil-Aalmeen (PUBH) Society which was started from a locality-based committee that used to collect donations from people in its neighbourhood and would use these only to help the poor.
This Society was started by three friends who became its founding members, Syed Altaf, Muhammad Saleem Tak and Kifayat Ahmad Mir, with the first donation coming from the public. Syed Altaf told Kashmir Reader that they started this society on the district level in the year 2006 under the name of Rehmatan-lil-Aalmeen (PUBH) Society.
“We were running a Quranic learning centre in our locality, which is Baba Mohala of Shopian. Muhammad Saleem and Kifayat used to present there, and I used to teach children after their school hours. We were daily discussing that there is no one and no organisation for the help of poor people in the district and later we started this society as a locality-level donation collecting and spending society,” he said, adding that they later took it to the district town level and by 2009 had begun serving needy people throughout the district.
The society got a name and public appreciation because of its tremendous work in providing food, clothes and medicines in 2009 when the district saw more than two months of shutdown after the rape and murder of Asiya and Nelofar.
According to the society’s members, who now number 26, the society is a non-profit organisation and all its members are working voluntarily. “We have five employees, but none of our members get anything from this society. Instead, we donate for it,” Altaf said.
Muhammad Nafi, the society’s accountant, told Kashmir Reader that this society is currently bearing the medical expenses of 16 patients afflicted by chronic diseases, most of them cases of kidney failure. The monthly expenditure for their dialysis is Rs 2.5 to three lakhs, he said. “Besides that, this society also provides daily food for more than 250 economically backward families,” he said.
Altaf said the society had till date “borne the marriage expenses of 141 poor girls”. All aid to needy people is given after proper verification by the society’s members, he added. “The only source of income is donation from the public. This society has no political or other support or assistance, but as per government rules a registration was compulsory,” he said.
Another member of the society has donated an ambulance, a cardiotocography machine, five trolleys and four wheel chairs to the Shopian hospital. “We provide food, medicine, ambulances and blankets to needy people, but the food doesn’t come from the society but from the homes of its members as most of us live in the hospital’s locality. All these things are provided free of cost to the people,” he said.
According to the members of this society, they have also provided educational assistance for 75 students among whom 18 are still studying in different schools and institutions. They have also provided help to 41 families for the repair of their houses. “We have bought more than a Kanal of land for construction of a dialysis centre where we will provide free dialysis among needy people. This society has also provided Rs 20,000 for surgical patients,” Altaf said. He added that the members of the society collect donations each month from almost all shopkeepers in Shopian town and there is no fixed scale for donating.
The society has hired five employees of whom two were deputed in the Shopian Hospital for providing food, blankets and helping those patients who are seriously ill or who have no attendants. “We have 18 oxygen machines, urine containers and nebulisors which we provide to the people on the recommendations of doctors,” one of the members said. He said that they have informed doctors to let the society know whenever they find any person in need of money for an ambulance, medicine or any other help, and the doctors do the same on such issues.
Last year, this society collected Rs 75.89 lakh from the public and spent Rs 65.60 on needy people.
Altaf said that they have now expanded the society to village-level localities. “They do collect and spend donations on their own, but whenever they need any assistance, we provide it to them. There are quite a few villages in this initiative,” he said.
Suhail Ahmad Lone, a local, told Kashmir Reader that the Rehmatan-lil-Aalmeen (PBUH) Trust is the only society that helps needy and poor people on a massive scale. “Others, like the clerics, spend public money only for their comforts. I suggest people to donate what they have for donations to this Trust,” he said.
The Trust’s members said that they now get donations from businessmen, youth and employed people on a monthly basis while a large part comes in the month of Ramadan. The society has its office near the State Bank of India branch near Goal Chowk, Shopian.