“I believe in Red Cross because blood across the world is red, and the only religion should be humanism” – Mrinal Kanti Das
The International Red Cross is mainly an international humanitarian movement with around 17 million members, volunteers, and staff from the world. The Red Cross Society was formed to serve the mankind, to protect their life and health, to provide equal rights and respect to everyone, and alleviate human suffering. Mrinal Kanti Das, acting Secretary and Honorary Secretary, Indian Red Cross Society, Alipore, West Bengal, spoke to BE’s Isha Chakraborty about his experience and the time served with Red Cross.
Q. Tell us about your journey with the Red Cross.
A. I am associated with the Red Cross for almost 40 years now and I used to primarily work as the acting secretary in the educational segment in the state Red Cross. Earlier, I wasn’t able to devote myself completely to it because of my primary profession but now I contribute 24 hours of my time to it. I believe in Red Cross because the blood across the world is also red, and the only religion should be humanism.
We were generally sent to the Agartala ONGC for several trainings we had to perform. I have also met the President for work related to Red Cross Organisation.
At present, we are working for the awareness and prevention of Dengue from the state. We are trying to spread awareness by putting up advertisements, distributing pamphlets from different centres. We are also providing comforters, mosquito nets, and other materials to prevent Dengue from different blocks.
We have started organising workshops on first-aid, disaster management, firefighting etc. with several schools. When I was the joint secretary of the district, another big event for us is the Gangasagarmela, where we have the whole responsibility of maintaining the health or first-aid department. The district, as well as the sub-division of Red Cross is also present with us during that event. A total of around 10-12 camps are organised all over West Bengal.
On doctor’s day, we organise camps along with Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre for cataract operation free of cost. We arrange ECG and other special medical check-ups. Apart from this, on December 1, as its AIDS Day, we organise five to six strict meetings regarding the same. In Bishnupur, West Bengal , a boy was rusticated from a primary school because of one of his parents suffering from AIDS. We contacted the health officer who took the required steps to ensure the fact that the boy was readmitted into the school.
We also work with the different Puja Committees during Durga Puja for providing them with proper first aid related training if they are organising camps or healthcare centres.
Q. Is there a specific focus area of Red Cross?
A. Yes, at present, Red Cross is focusing on the combating the different diseases like Dengue or new diseases that are spreading in the country. We are trying to arrange meetings with doctors from around the country and beyond for solving these diseases or finding a cure for them. We have been conducting workshops and meetings in different areas for spreading awareness regarding dengue in order to prevent it from spreading.
Blood donation camps are also an essential segment and thus we organise blood donation camps in different areas. This year, in a law college, during a camp we had about 50 people who donated blood on a single day itself. We have been known for our blood donation camps, especially in our district because of the success of every blood camp. Last but not the least, Alzheimer’s tests are also done under our organisation which is very important to be done at the correct time.
Q. Is the Red Cross working on natural disasters, for e.g., Kerala or Nagaland floods?
A. Yes, in this case we are not directly connected to them unless and until it’s our own state. But, in these cases of natural disasters happening around the country, we would generally look to the headquarters of the Red Cross present in that state or district it. While we try to send the best we can from our side, if an individual or group is interested in helping during the relief work being done, we collect their names and then forward it to the secretary of the state headquarters. We confirm that these people are interested in contributing something for the people in distress and in need of help. After the contributions are made, they are carried forward by the West Bengal Red Cross Headquarters to the specific area.
However, if there is a need for national volunteers or help, we all can visit the area and do our own part in helping them. In case of the cyclone storm, Aila, we had to work tremendously hard in the Sunderbans, West Bengal. It was a historical time for our team since we believe we did something that we never thought we could achieve but in distress the reality of manpower came out.
Q. Are you associated with any particular hospital or health centre?
A. No, we are not associated with any particular hospital, nursing home, or health centre. However, if we refer a patient in need, then it is given priority of course.
Q. Like in disasters, does Red Cross also work in various conflict zones?
A. International Red Cross is of two types, where there is International Committee of Red Cross, where every citizen of Switzerland is a member of this committee by birth since it is the birthplace of the organisation and then there is the League of Red Cross, which only functions in places hit by natural calamities. So, the International Red Cross society is the only one of the two, which can enter a conflict zone and function in that area. Red Cross is allowed to treat a wounded soldier without being attacked by someone else or stopped by a fellow soldier. Red Cross has different volunteers as well who look after the fact that nothing can harm the people who are working for welfare in the war zone.
Q. What is the process for being a member of Red Cross?
A. It is a simple process, which includes taking up a form from any of the Red Cross offices and submitting it with a certain amount of money depending on the time period you want to be associated with the organisation. If you are interested in being a yearly member then you have to submit a cheque of `100 and for being a life member you will have to submit `1000 along with the form. You will be provided with a receipt until and unless you get a certificate for the time you have been associated with Red Cross. But we generally examine the people to see they won’t back down when we need people to work and thus, take it in writing from them that they will serve with Red Cross when in need.