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Explained: The organisational structure of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

The RSS has an unusual structure where the umbrella body oversees more than 100 affiliates dealing with diverse issues such as the economy, ex-servicemen, border areas, education, culture, charity, law, environment and social welfare with a focus on Hindu values and patriotism. A major difference from other organisations is a glass ceiling for married people.

April 03, 2021 / 04:57 PM IST
File image: Member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) participating in a route march on the occasion of Durga Puja on September 29, 2019 in Kolkata, West Bengal. (Image by Saikat Paul via Shutterstock)

File image: Member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) participating in a route march on the occasion of Durga Puja on September 29, 2019 in Kolkata, West Bengal. (Image by Saikat Paul via Shutterstock)

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) announced top-level changes on March 20, when it elected Dattatreya Hosabale as its new Sarkaryavah or General Secretary, appointed two new Sah-Sarkaryavahs or Joint General Secretaries, and brought back Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ram Madhav into its fold.

The RSS functions through six departments or pillars – sharirik (physical), sampark (outreach), prachar (publicity), bauddhik (intellectual), vyavastha (administrative) and sewa (service).

There are at least 46 other wings at national level under the departments and come under the ‘Sangh Parivar.’ Also, every state has its own organisation. In all, there are over a hundred national RSS bodies.

“There is no sphere that is left untouched. For the armed forces, there is an organisation for ex-servicemen named Purva Sainik Parishad, for the welfare of those living near borders, there is Seema Jagran Manch, the lawyers’ body is known as Adhivakta Parishad,” says RSS functionary Sunil Ambekar in his book ‘RSS; Roadmaps for the 21st Century”. Ambekar was elevated to the post of Prachar Pramukh (incharge of publicity wing) in the leadership change last month.

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Moneycontrol takes a look at the RSS’ organisational structure that resembles that of any other organisation, with one difference - after a certain level, only unmarried men who work full-time with the Parivar can rise in the ranks.

The chief – Sarsanghchalak

Mohan Bhagwat, 70, succeeded KS Sudarshan in March 2009 to head the RSS as Sarsanghchalak. The Sarsanghchalak, described as its ‘Guide and Philosopher, is usually nominated by the predecessor. The Sarsanghchalak holds the position for life and operates from its Nagpur headquarters. Under him are Sarkarvyahs or General Secretarys and Sah-Sarkarvyavahas, the Joint General Secretaries. Before Bhagwat, RSS has had five chiefs since its inception in 1925, starting with Keshav Baliram Hedgewar who founded the organisation. He served as Sarsanghchalak from 1925 to 1930 and from 1931 to 1940.

The General Secretary or the 'CEO'- Sarkaryavah

The Sarkaryavah, referred to as CEO in modern parlance, is the number-two person, who is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the RSS.

Dattatreya Hosabale, who was the Sah-Sarkaryavah or the joint general secretary of the RSS since 2009, was elected the Sarkaryavah, the General Secretary at the two-day annual meeting of the Sangh's highest decision-making body Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) at Bengaluru on March 19-20. The General Secretary is responsible for activities related to organisation across the country.

The Joint General Secretaries - Sah Sarkaryavah

After last month’s rejig, RSS has five Sah Sarkaryavah or Joint General Secretaries. These are Dr Krishna Gopal, Dr Manmohan Vaidya, Mukunda CR, Arun Kumar and Ram Dutt Chakradhar. Each Joint General secretary has his work cut out. Dr Krishna Gopal is responsible for keeping in touch with other organisations such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), while Manmohan Vaidya takes care of media relations and communication with media. Mukunda CR is in charge of the departments of physical and intellectual activities.

Also read: In-Depth | Modi, RSS and 'poriborton': What fuels BJP's meteoric rise in Bengal 

The Shakha, Pracharak and Karyakarta

The smallest unit of the organisation is a Shakha or the branch. Most of the organisational work of the RSS is done through more than 57,000 Shakhas across the country.

There are other positions in the RSS. A number of RSS leaders serve as ‘Vicharak’ or ideologues. Then there is a ‘Pracharak’ who is an active, full-time missionary to spread the RSS doctrine. The Pracharak system is known as the nerve of the organisation. Most of the Pracharaks devote themselves to a lifetime of celibacy and service to the organisation. The Pracharaks were instrumental in spreading the organisation from its roots in Nagpur to the rest of the country. At present, there are roughly 2500 RSS Pracharaks in RSS.

Karyakarta or the active functionary is another important element in the RSS organisation. To become a Karyakarta, the RSS members undergo four levels of ideological and physical training in Sangh Shiksha Varg camps. Most (95 percent) of Karyakartas are known as Grahastha Karyakartas, or householders, supporting the organisation part-time, while the rest (5 percent) are Pracharaks, who support the organisation full-time.

The head teacher and chief of a Shakha is known as Mukhya-Shikshak while the executive head of a Shakha is called Karyawah. A group leader is called Gatanayak in Sangh parlance. Then there is a Swayamsevak or volunteer. They attend the Shakhas.
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 11 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.

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