It will soon be mandatory for college and university students enrolled in the National Social Service (NSS) to camp in villages and undertake social work there.
The human resource development ministry is likely to sign a memorandum of understanding with the ministry of youth affairs to involve the NSS in the implementation of its flagship programme Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA) to uplift rural India.
The NSS is a large-scale community service programme meant for the youth to engage with social problems and is run by universities across the country. Delhi University, for instance, took up the programme in 1969. The number of hours that students will have to spend in rural areas will be finalised soon.
“Association with the NSS is not only a welcome step but an essential one towards a strong Unnat Bharat Abhiyan,” said Vijay P Bhatkar, architect of India’s first supercomputer and chairman of the UBA committee.
It is not mandatory for NSS volunteers at present to undertake work in rural areas. According to HRD ministry officials, NSS units in colleges and universities will be involved in village surveys, planning and other activities.
“There are a number of universities that are either in rural areas or are close to villages. Their students will be taken first for providing help to the UBA. Universities that are in urban areas and have small hamlets in the outskirts can work there,” a senior ministry official said.
One NSS unit in a college has roughly 100 volunteers and each is supposed to dedicate 120 hours for social work in a year. There are a total of 38,000 NSS units in the country. Thematic issues such as village planning, resource mapping, water, irrigation, and infrastructure improvement will be taken up for intervention by a group of 10-15 volunteers of an NSS unit that will camp in villages.
“As part of the NSS we do teach at blind schools and work for NGOs. It is a good move to involve the youth in our villages. But transportation and lodging will have to be taken care of by the government,” said Anushree Dutta, a Delhi University student.
The first phase of the UBA programme in selected districts is likely to be launched on Independence Day. A training kit will be prepared for UBA activities by mentoring institutes under the guidance of IIT Delhi. Districts are being selected while work on identification of NSS units will be over by April and training kits prepared by June.
Officials said 44 institutions and 89 districts had been identified for UBA implementation in the initial stage.
The UBA was launched by the ministry to enable higher educational institutions to work with rural people in identifying development challenges and creating solutions for accelerating sustainable growth.