3 Small-town Student Groups that changed our society, just like you wanted
Become so very free that your whole existence is an act of rebellion. -Albert Camus
If it were not for the violent saga of Gangs of Wasseypur, few amongst us would know the genealogy of Dhanbad. Containing over 19 billion of coking coal, Dhanbad is the center of the industrial syndicate of Chota Nagpur plateau. Alas though, the affluence hasn’t been distributed appropriately (as is the case with all mineral-based cities) and Dhanbad continues to be plagued by poverty, administrative neglect, crime. From the sub-urban peripheries of Katras, Pathardih to Koylanagar, Govindpur, Dhanbad abodes lakhs of people in its slums. Despite the idealism involved in the emergence of Jharkhand as a state, the citizens suffer penury across the mineral-belt of the country.
Seventeen years and a month before, Jharkhand was formed on November 15th, 2000. The situations haven’t changed much to a common man’s advantage. This will hold true for many B-grade cities in India, be it Jamshedpur, Rourkela or Dhanbad. Each has a legacy of industrialization, each contributes very highly to the national economy and employment, and yet it only takes a visit to witness the sad affairs of the country.
Incidentally, Albert Camus was awarded Nobel Prize for literature exactly sixty years before. His writings were crucial in influencing the politics and society of Algeria, France, Arab and the rest of the world. Despite popular awareness about Camus, his life was committed to fighting against nihilism and pessimist ideas. In his book-length essay, The Rebel, he writes that “the appalling society of tyrants and slaves in which we survive will find its death and transfiguration only on the level of creation.” Which walks us to question, can the situation of slum dwellers, railway workers, unorganized labors and the antisocial section of society change?
Our Kartavya : Nurturing the roots of society
Fyodor Dostoyevsky points that “the soul is healed by being with children”. Wouldn’t we agree that most of our inhibitions and social traits are conditioned and formulated when we are in our childhood? Given the poverty and emotional hardships of slum dwelling children, it is indeed very difficult to bring them into the mainstream without imparting proper education and conducive environment towards betterment.
A year before Jharkhand was founded, some students headed by Mr. Amresh Mishra started teaching slum- children in a small temple premise. The idea was noble, the students were determined, and the welfare spread. Amresh Mishra would later become an IPS , recently in news for unveiling the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy. Meanwhile, the group of students has formally registered themselves as Kartavya and continue to serve Dhanbad by imparting knowledge and guidance to less-privileged children.
Things haven’t been easy, situations were challenging and continue to be. Joined by some 400 volunteers per college, Kartavya is empowering a generation towards sustenance and job-creation. Evening tuitions, adequate library and computer facilities combined with health awareness and extra-curricular activities, Kartavya is delivering everything that costs over Rs. 5000 per month in private schools of Dhanbad. Besides that, the spirit of social inclusion and welfare is upheld by this student group which never shies away from its social responsibilities.
They have to manage finance by philanthropist support, donations from students and alumni, and even by selling the old newspapers collected from the ISM (IIT) hostel. Any help is useful, so they believe. Even busy and distant persons like us can join their initiatives by sponsoring a child’s education for an academic session. Your contribution can upscale their efforts and bring in more students to the classroom.
But that’s not what these students lack, primarily. Spreading awareness about the issues of Dhanbad, and supporting them with innovative ideas can make a larger difference. Which is what our country is in dire need of.
Sankalp: The Iron Road to Social Upliftment
Some 113 km away from Dhanbad stretches the urbanest agglomeration in Jamshedpur. Despite homing the world’s 10th largest steel manufacturing company, the city has appalling slums across its breadth. Be it Karandih, or Adityapur, Dimna, Jamshedpur makes us realize that being the first planned industrial city of India doesn’t help much to poor people. Not that the city is inferior to Ranchi, Bhubaneshwar or Kolkata in terms of affluence. Jamshedpur has posh roads, sophisticated cultural establishments and esteemed education centers including the revered XLRI. But has all the development been appropriated only to middle- and high- class sections of the society?
Challenging the inequality, NGOs like Sankalp understand how terrible the teaching methodology of government schools can get. A mineral-belt of the country, Jamshedpur has about 28% of the tribal population which is yet to receive the gold of our government schemes. We will not discuss how imperative Jharkhand Government has been on this, though Draupadi Murmu, the honorable Governor of Jharkhand has left no stones unturned to improve the situation of tribal communities. Entwined by lack of education and then missing out employment options will have catastrophic future for ST communities in particular.
Sankalp has been active since its inception in 2007. Operating in eleven centers ( 5 in Adityapur, 1 in Telco, Madhepura, Dhanbad, Varanasi, Jamui, and Banka), it has benefitted more than 750 children through quality education and healthy environment. Around the legendary National Institute of Technology campus, the volunteers are equally enthusiastic about providing free and quality education to underprivileged children living in slums and villages near the college campus.
Adult literacy, technological education, extracurricular activities, the methods employed by Sankalp beat the best in the city and has proved its iron strength in sustaining amidst all odds. The next time you hear a story from Jamshedpur, remember the city is developing a more prominent social fabric than projected in mainstream media.
Aasra: Turning Hopes into Reality
Another NIT-students led initiative, Aasra operates in and around Rourkela. Rourkela is an industrial-cum-educational hub in Orissa and the general society in Rourkela has endured neglect right from the Independence of India. The tales of exploiting tribals sounds cliche but given the dense industrial establishments around this Ispat city, one is only surprised why the benefits aren’t shared with the tribal communities as well. With over 13 major hospitals in the city, and abundance of schooling facilities around, why aren’t STs reaching the mainstream here?
Compounded by a lethargic political will and equally helpless bureaucracy, things would have been quite dusky for the local inhabitants, had it not been supported by socially active communities like Aasra. Under the mentorship of faculties and a very wide alumni base, Aasra is helping the weaker sections of society. Especially through its initiatives towards children, Aasra should be praised for nurturing aspirations and awareness amongst these historically and culturally deprived children.
Be it Sector 2 or Jagda, OSAP, Aasra’s volunteers have technology-driven methodology to combat ill-practices of the society and why not! Being a former student, I must credit Prof. S. K. Sarangi for his endowing guidance and encouragement that fuelled Aasra’s core values. Apart from educating the children, Prof. Sarangi believes, it is also essential to provide a ready means of employment/occupation so that education becomes more popular amongst otherwise illiterate families.
They say good things go a long way. So has Aasra’s collaboration with other community-driven initiatives like Goonj, and Monday Morning. We wish the volunteering students all the best for their career goals, and are convinced these students will continue to construct a society that instead of dividing the fragments, will abridge communities. As a hopeful Camus writes, we must imagine Sisiphys happy.