N.S.S: An Under-Utilized Arm of Nation Building
12. November 2018 at 09:19
by Shashank S R
National Service Scheme(N.S.S) is one of the largest student body in the world if not the biggest. It is a voluntary-student organization with 32 lakh volunteers spread across the country. This article emphasizes the need to re-visit N.S.S to suit the present day needs.National Service Scheme(N.S.S), a centrally sponsored scheme under the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Government of India, was flagged off by the then Union Education Minister Dr. VKRV Rao in 1969 - the birth centenary year of Mahatma Gandhiji. It is a student-volunteer programme that started off in 37 Universities with a volunteer strength of 40,000 across India. The Scheme now has 36.58 lakh volunteers across 36965 N.S.S Units from 391 Universities. More than 4.60 Crore volunteers have been benefitted from the scheme since its inception. (National Service Scheme, 2018) (Department of Youth Affairs, 2016)
N.S.S works in educational institutions majorly at the Pre-University and Graduate levels by the establishment of N.S.S Units. Each N.S.S Unit can enroll up to 100 volunteers. The volunteers are students who are willing to put in 240 hours of community service spread over a period of 2 years. In addition to this, a special camp shall be organized in communities most likely in villages or slums wherein 50 volunteers stay in the community for a period of 7 days to undertake various activities in accordance to the needs of the community usually in collaborations with the local authorities. An N.S.S unit for the smooth conduct its activities and for obtaining better results ought to adopt villages and ensure continuity of actions are in place and shall follow-up the works were undertaken wherever necessary. (Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, 2006)
The National Service Scheme Manual (Revised) (2006) notes the following ideas for the adoption of villages:
Adoption of a village and area is a very meaningful programme in NSS. It is far better to concentrate attention on one village and take up the task for development perspective than to fritter away energy in many locations involving too many activities which may not be completed at all or where the follow-up action may not be possible. From this point of view, village adoption programme should ensure continuity of work vis-à-vis sustained action, evaluation and follow up work. (p.13)
It is usually seen that the students undertake activities like plantation programmes, organize health camps, create awareness amongst villagers about social issues and teach the students of a nearby school. Though the objectives of these activities cannot be contested, it is also important that we consider the large-scale picture of the same.
Today, N.S.S has 39,695 Units spread across all states and union territories of India. It is almost One-Fourth of the total number of Post-Offices in India. (Department of Posts, 2018) Of these many N.S.S units, 34,191 units have adopted villages. Unfortunately, we have failed miserably to convert these villages into the model villages due to not implantation of the much needed sustainable approach. Serving as a volunteer for 5 years and closely following its activities, I understand the constraints with which the N.S.S Units and Volunteers take up the activities. It is also important to note that the works undertaken have not impacted and has diverged from its original mission. As huge as 1,71,06,656 hours of shramadaan (physical efforts) has been put in by the volunteers across the country in 2015-16 alone. One has to take into account that these labor hours are recurring in nature year after year. The count shall only increase with the increase in the number of self-financing units (N.S.S Units that do not receive funds for its activities from the government. These units are funded by their respective institutions) and more volunteers being added in. (Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, 2016)
The problem lies in not effectively utilizing the potential to convert it into outcomes in a more systematic and sustainable way: for which it is the right time to re-look; to re-visit, and to re-envision N.S.S on the following lines:
1. N.S.S should now be seen as an arm for nation-building. Till date, the notion of selfless service has been seen as an end in itself. With the advent of a highly competitive market and nation as a whole looking at inclusive growth, the camps organized at villages, activities taken up by these youth can be channelized for the betterment of the place we live in. We now ought to aim at the end goal of having a ‘Peaceful, Democratic, Integrate, All-able and an Empathetic society’ through the means of Selfless Service which shall cater to the need of Community Service at the same time shall help in the personality development of the volunteers.
2. It is the need of the hour that the N.S.S Units involve themselves in construction and maintenance of community goods what may be in other words called as asset building and maintenance. There have been testimonies wherein N.S.S units have taken up activities like de-silting of lakes, construction of community halls and cleaning of community water tanks but the instances are only a handful.
3. The N.S.S Units more often than not fail to come up with proper plans. Though an advisory committee should be set-up at the institutional level involving volunteers, the Programme Officer(Faculty in-charge of N.S.S units), Heads of institutions, other faculty members, community members, and collaborating agencies, it is absent or non-functional in most cases. Hence, it is often found that only programme officer along with some students is involved in the planning of activities. These have to lead to the failures in planning. It is really important to understand precisely the needs of the community before taking up the activities and hence, a proper planning mechanism should be practiced. (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 2009)
4. The efficiency of the activities undertaken by the N.S.S Units is abysmally low. This problem needs to be addressed at the earliest. A better evaluation process should be undertaken as the reasons for inefficiency and rectifying the same. A closer look at the data in relation to N.S.S activities undertaken in 2015-16 substantiates the argument:
a. 9,27,600 children have been benefitted by the pulse-polio programme initiated by 6,11,668 volunteers across the country. It shows that a volunteer could reach only 1.51 children on an average.
b. 17,206 Health/Eye/Immunisation Camps were organized involving 8,70,833 volunteers which means that the average number of volunteers involved to organize a health camp is around 50. It can be found that a health camp typically involves a team of 5-10 medical practitioners and the volunteer requirement for the same shall not exceed 10-15 volunteers. (Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, 2016)
5. Evaluation studies on N.S.S have pointed out that the follow-up systems in N.S.S activities have not been properly taken up leading to the early scrappage of various programmes thereby not giving out the required results. (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 2009)A great example of the same can be the plantation programmes. The data of 2015-16 activities suggest that 27,07,919 saplings were planted by the volunteers. (Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, 2016) A question remains on how many plants have managed to survive given that a lot of plants gets up by the herbivorous animals or are uprooted to facilitate construction and re-construction activities.
6. The success of the N.S.S activities depends upon the fact of how the human resource in the form of student-volunteers can be integrated with other resources in order to obtain the best possible outcome. This can be actually put into practice only if the N.S.S units are able to integrate and associate with the neighboring N.S.S units local and state governmental agencies, the community, NGO's and various other stakeholders like other youth organizations and Institutions working towards rural development. It has been noted that these integration has not been happening due to various reasons. N.S.S units must hence, associate various other stakeholders to be able to make an impact. (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 2009)
7. Technology has been the neglected child of the N.S.S. Though the internal financial situation doesn’t provide for technology, it is necessary to put in a conscious effort for utilizing technological methods wherever possible to facilitate better functioning of N.S.S activities.
Under the restructuring undertaken by the Ministry of Youth Affairs, 8 schemes were brought under the umbrella scheme known as ‘Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram(RYSK)'. While N.S.S is one among the only Two schemes retained as a separate scheme along with Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD) owing to the distinctive role it has to play. (Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, 2017)This should tell us about the importance and relevance of the scheme to the present day scenario. Hence, it has to come to the forefront to facilitate youth engagement with the community and isn’t a supplementary model anymore. N.S.S has to serve a much larger role than ever owing to the present day needs and expectation on N.S.S.
Entering it's 50th year of Initiation is N.S.S and I believe, there isn’t a much better an occasion to re-visit and re-locate itself to the changing needs.
Department of Posts. (2018, September 5). About Us: Department of Posts. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from Department of Posts Web Site: https://www.indiapost.gov.in/VAS/Pages/AboutUs/AboutUs.aspx
Department of Youth Affairs. (2016). Schemes, Programmes, and Initiatives(2014-15 and 2015-16). Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Department of Youth Affairs. New Delhi: Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. (2016, October 4). Department of Youth Affairs: State-wise glance. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports: https://yas.gov.in/youth-affairs/state-wise-glance
Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. (2017). Annual Report 2016-17. New Delhi: Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. (2006). National Service Scheme Manual(Revised). New Delhi, India: Government of India.
National Service Scheme. (2018, April 27). Home: National Service Scheme. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from National Service Scheme Web Site: https://nss.gov.in/nss-detail-page
Tata Institute of Social Sciences. (2009). An evaluation Study of NSS in India 2008-09. Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social Sciences.