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Biju Yuva Vahini: Small Steps Towards A Brighter Future

We started with plantation drive. As many as 100 saplings were planted in two schools and along the roads in Kharvela Nagar, says Manoj Mukhi

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A wide road meanders into winding narrow paths in Bayababa Basti in the heart of the city. It is hard to miss the whining children with satchel creeping along this path like snails as the women sweep the floors and place kettle for the morning tea. They queue up in front of a oneroom hut, which faces front on to the entry point of the basti. Sonu Bhatta rushes past them to open the door for the free tuition classes, which he along with his friends conducts to help basti children with their studies. A Class XII student, he got late today as the night before the young brigade of 26 was busy distributing food among the needy in some areas of the city. They contribute, cook the food and carry packets to people who spend nights on the streets near Ram Mandir, Shani Mandir and Master Canteen Square. “We have to feed some of them, especially those who cannot see properly,” said Loknath Das, another member. There is little in common among the members of this group, but what binds them is a simple thought of bringing about a positive change in their life and that of the others. Many among them are school dropouts, who work as delivery and food serving boys to earn a living.

Sooner than expected, the thought found a platform and took shape when they enrolled for Biju Yuva Vahini (BYV), a sub-scheme of Biju Yuva Sashaktikaran that target youths of Odisha to promote leadership, volunteerism and a healthy lifestyle through sports and social action interventions.

It gave their plan a boost and a direction. “We started with plantation drive. As many as 100 saplings were planted in two schools and along the roads in Kharvela Nagar,” said Manoj Mukhi.

What set this drive apart was that they used it to send across the message of Sabuja Odisha (Green & Clean Odisha). “The filing station next to the basti had become a bane as the workers often dumped garbage on our arterial road. Requests followed by constant prodding went in vain,” he said.

The young brigade levelled the land next to the dwarf wall, which separates the basti from the filling station, and planted a few saplings there. They then raised guards to protect these flowering plants from rummaging cattle. “The plants and the bloom did the trick for us and also helped to beautify the entrance to the basti,” said Loknath, who prides himself for the spic-and span look.

The members actively participated in the mini-marathon, a prelude to the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup which Bhubaneswar hosted last year, and set up a LED Screen in the basti, when the state government decided to bring all the action to fans with live telecast of all the matches. While doing all these, they also created a space for themselves and built a small pucca structure for BYV to converge and plan different activities. “We had always dreamt of having a club of our own, this initiative brought us closer to it. We cleaned up the marshy area, which earlier remained flooded with drain water and created this meeting point,” said Manas Sethi. Besides the monthly meetings to discuss the programmes of BYV, they meet to discuss ways to better life of people, especially children, in the locality. Taking the lead, they got down to clear choked drains in the basti in a bid to keep the surrounding clean and make the environment hygienic. Dustbins can now be seen outside every house of the basti. People’s participation came as a bonus.

They repaired a hut, which was initially built as a primary school and was later abandoned, to provide children an environment where they can focus on their studies. “We hold classes in the morning and again in the evening. About 30 children, studying in Class I to V, attend. Life in basti is never easy. Men come home drunk and create disturbances. We recreated this place to help them concentrate on studies. We also help them with the lessons,” said Suraj Khan, who looked visibly worried about school dropouts in his locality. The group also keeps an eye on the erring kids who skip school and ensure that their attendance is regular, he added.

But their task does not end there. Alcohol abuse among children is rampant here. “Kids as young as eight have taken to alcohol and tapering them off is proving to be colossal,” said Soumya Ranjan Swain. Under ‘Nisha Ku Na’ (No to Intoxicants) campaign, they have got some children admitted to a nearby de-addiction centre. “We are trying to involve families in it for better results. It is sure to take some time,” he said.

While this trend is quite disturbing, the 26 members are trying to set examples for the younger lot through charity and good work for which they set aside some fund every month.

“BYV has provided us a platform to take up initiatives to help the needy. We cook food for the poor every Thursday. It gives us immense happiness to be able to serve them in whatever small way we can,” said Loknath.

They also look for other means to help the homeless. “Food often gets wasted in big weddings and functions. We requests the owners allow us to take them and distribute among the needy,” he said. The list goes on. During summer, they set up Jal Chhatras (water kiosks) at different places to quench the thirst of passersby when heat wave grips the state. They have also worked as traffic volunteers during Durga Puja and the city carnival, DotFest, during the World Cup Hockey. “We had a blast of time and got to learn a lot about managing the crowd during these events,” said Omm Nayak.

In the aftermath of Pulwama terror attack, they took out candlelight vigil in memory of the martyred jawans.

Through such small steps, they strive to make a big and impactful difference in the life of their fellow beings.

They dream but for a beautiful world, which comes through in the smile on their faces and eyes full of kindness. They have big plans for their small locality and it is good enough to fit in there with no ugliness protruding.

And now, the white/yellow T-shirt with BYV logo has given them an identity that they only can be proud of.

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