Monday, August 16, 2010


Got a phone call at later part of the summer vacation asking me to take up the role of NSS (National Service Scheme) Program Coordinator at IIT Kharagpur. Probably I could give little extra time, specially in NSS Annual Camp as NSS Program Officer in previous years. It is always challenging when you have a parallel responsibility of examining hundreds of answer-scripts and publish the result within strict deadline. May be I have little longer experience in community service related to work from my pre-teen days thanks to Still, my reaction was "I am fine as Program Officer. Let the existing set up continue. I shall be available for whatever service asked for." Earlier too when this was floated, I pleaded the same way. But this time I could feel that it is unavoidable. Remembered the story of Panchatantra. Could pursue that I would look after all the NSS activities except the finance and I am happy to say I am being ably supported there.

Since last NSS Annual Camp (Nov-Dec 2009) I had several consultations with a group of NSS volunteers to understand their perspective. The number of such meetings were more than 10 and majority of them lasted more than 2 hours. I am thankful to these students for their time and for educating me.

We understood that a good beginning can make a lot of difference. First of all, there is an issue with motivation. The students largely do not understand how NSS is going to benefit him/her, the society that sustains us and his/her relationship with the society; how important it is to have an inclusive and sustainable growth for everybody's survival; how this helps in learning team work, leadership, problem solving skills etc. which enriches one's personal space too. Therefore, this year we started with well rehearsed NSS orientation program in institute auditorium.

The next problem faced was that of number. Only the larger auditoriums which usually is used for larger functions (and not these activities) can accommodate 800 NSS volunteers at a time. Also this work is not lecture, class test, sem. exam. based. Each program officer taking care of 100 students find mentoring, evaluating job really difficult. Therefore, we looked for restructuring. Each of this 100 students units were divided into 10-20 member groups. Each group has a Group Leader and one Deputy Group Leader coming from 2nd year students and one Deputy Group Leader from 1st year students. We have empowered leaders in several ways. Besides that, every month end we are going to have a combined meeting of all group leaders, deputy leaders, program officers to take stock of the situation and for inter unit/group exchanges of idea, support and service.

A big problem faced was that of communication with students - 800 of them interspersed in all the hostels and NSS office at Rural Development Centre (RDC) is the farthest establishment from hostels. For every single occasion one had to put notices on all hall notice boards which often got overlooked or crowded out. The students had difficulty to go up to RDC to see 'What's New', more so because there was no academic activity in the neighbourhood. To solve that we are using Intinno, a learning management system developed by our own ex-students. Till date 650 out of 800 students have enrolled there and all announcements/notices are instantly delivered in a student's mailbox. Also, a student query is addressed in less than 24 hours. For emergency, they are asked to call in my cellphone.

The other problem faced was randomness in assignment of activity. This time during enrolment we gave a choice of 10 NSS activities to each student. The program officers among themselves chose mentoring some of these activities according their area of expertize and interest. Based on these two, group formation had been done and we hope the volunteers will be able to contribute more by this.

Next we found that in some of the activities the students attend just to become a part of the crowd and get attendance recorded. There is no involvement of any kind and more importantly they do not feel proud of their presence in that assembly. This year NSS, IITKGP proactively participated in Independence Day function by following a dress code (it gave a beautiful disciplined look), publishing a newsletter (link given below, NSS IITKGP is going to have its own webpage soon) besides providing services like distribution of food packet etc. The audience appreciated this reinvention of NSS team and the volunteers felt proud of themselves.
The link appears in Google buzz of mine as well as many NSS student volunteers. I am tempted to talk in their language - NSS IIT KHARAGPUR ROCKS.

Whether you call it statistical aberration or 'chalta hai' attitude that finds its way in young mind because of systematic failure, there are always a few students who take this 'zero credit' course casually. This time we took it very strongly and wrote to respective Head of the Department and Faculty Adviser to counsel the students. We ourselves also remain available for any kind of assistance. Hope, this will not leave any weak link anywhere in the activities undertaken.

Last semester we invited S.D.O. Kharagpur to address NSS volunteers. Based on his suggestion and his call to act as 'facilitator' this time we are looking for better coordination of S.D.O., B.D.O. and Panchayat office and an activity group has been created for this. We are always in contact with the Deputy Magistrate who is our point of contact at S.D.O. office.

I shall talk more about individual 10-12 NSS activities when we make some progress there.

All these are being made possible for the tremendous support I am receiving from my program officers and the institute administration. It is their love for our young students, to see them excel academically as well as a to grow as a responsible citizen of the country, brought and bind the entire team together. I cite a recent example here. On 15th Aug., one NSS volunteer told me that he faced some problem when he visited a village school in the neighbourhood the previous day i.e. 14th Aug. On 16th Aug., four of us - myself, one program officer, NSS Head and EAA Coordinator went to that school and addressed the problem. Besides this program officers/ coordinators are visiting work sites, taking weekly appraisal and helping the students in all possible way. We amongst us, the officers, have created a mailgroup and remain constantly updated. Fortnightly we meet for 1.5-2 hours and take stock of the situation. And we are receiving full support from institute administration. Hope, together we shall be able to make NSS at IITKGP stronger and the experience meaningful.

I am thankful to my book publisher, research collaborators and others from whom I requested a window of 2-3 weeks. I believe that I could utilize the break fruitfully and NSS at IITKGP is on a roll. Late last evening, I finished writing annual report of NSS to be submitted to NSS HQ. That completes a full circle and now the hierarchy takes over.

(Thanks to Srichandana and the NSS IIT Kharagpur Newsletter team for the photos)


N K Agrawal said...

A very inspiring blog sir.. thanx for always being there to direct us..

gs said...

Thanks N K. An inclusive and sustainable growth can only secure our future, can make us happy. Yesterday I was talking to an experienced NSS officer. You may be knowing that the place around our campus is facing a drought like situation, monsoon playing truant. He was saying that petty theft will increase now. Daily laborers who work on the fields, the marginalized section of the society, have no jobs now. The young India emerging from elite institutions like IITs, who are going to take the rein of the country tomorrow, need to take note of such distortions. IITians are known for their problem solving skills. Can you get a bigger problem than this? Can there be a better solution than one which wipes tears and brings back smiles on one's face?