Bhubaneswar: There is a lot of buzz around urban slums and youth as 2 critical constituencies in the run-up to the elections. While everyone is talking about the significant role that will be played by youth, and the over 2 crore first time voters in the Indian elections, one also often decries the supposed lack of political engagement of middle class youth in the cities. What aids the disengagement is also a perception that at least in the cities, the electoral outcomes are mostly decided in the slums and the votes of middle class youth do not really count.
With the understanding that political engagement comes from participation in the process of creating change in society and with exposure to problems faced by people, Bakul Foundation has mobilized hundreds of youth from colleges, schools and IT firms to celebrate the BAKUL Day of Service by going to 12 slums of Bhubaneswar and having fun and learning activities with children on Sunday, 24th March, 2019.According to Pooja Mishra of Bakul Foundation, the Coordinator of the nationwide event, the purpose of the Day of Service is to a. To initiate youth into volunteerism and through that political engagement by creating a platform for them to volunteerb. To ensure that youth of Odisha, who have been socially and politically initiated, remain engaged through an act of service even if they have moved to other cities. c. To sensitize the youth to issues faced by people in the slums and by children and the elderly when they go to conduct activities Bakul Foundation, which has been trying to demonstrate the power of volunteerism in Odisha, has been celebrating Days of Service twice a year, on Gandhi Jayanti and on the 4th Sunday of March since 2011. It used to celebrate the Days of Service mostly at Orphanages and Old Age Homes but then there was a realization that it has become common for people to go to Orphanages but rarely does such middle class volunteerism happen in the slums, where it is difficult to mobilize children and to organize activities.
There has been a great response of volunteers as young as high school children from DPS Kalinga and KV1, from colleges such as AIIMS, Hi-Tech, IIIT, KIIT, ITER, Trident, J D institute, OUAT, SICC, IT companies such as In2IT and Infosys, and volunteer groups such as TPH, Rotaract and Sankalpa. In addition to Bhubaneswar, it is happening in 10 cities across India such as Cuttack, Angul, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi.Storytelling and craft, two activities Bakul Foundation has been known to promote, will be key activities in the Day of Service.
Saubhagya Beura, a storyteller associated with Bakul Foundation said that, “BhuFeSto or the Bhubaneswar Festival of Storytelling organized by BAKUL with BDA during the Hockey World Cup was a landmark event in the city that exposed children to the best of storytelling. Through the Day of Service, we are taking storytelling to the slums. Similarly, BAKUL has been conducting craft workshops at the 2 state level children’s festivals organized by the Govt such as Sargiful and Suravi.” Pooja Mishra, the Coordinator, added that “Such activities happening in the slums will help promote social cohesion and lessen the divide and foster better interaction and understanding between different social groups in addition to making the youth more politically engaged through volunteerism.”