From character-building to nation-building: The need for student organizations to go beyond campus activism

Even as the curve of new Covid-19 infections is flattening across the country, the pandemic has left several adults vulnerable and several kids orphaned. While sordid stories surfaced from various corners during the pandemic, several social groups and Good Samaritans also launched commendable initiatives to reach out to the vulnerable sections of the society. And despite the long periods of confinement, the outbreak of Covid-19 yet again showed us the strength of a collective effort.

Hence, it would be immoral of us as a society if we leave the fight against the pandemic only to the frontline workers. In these unprecedented times, it is upon our student organisations as well to step up and rise beyond campus activism to help the people in need on ground zero.

The perception of a student organisation is of a political group active in colleges and universities that remains limited to student welfare. However, history tells us that participation of students can lead to a positive transformation in the society.

Acknowledging the need to reach out to the marginalized sections of the society, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), arguably the biggest student organisation in the world, launched several relief campaigns during the pandemic.

The three-million-strong organization devoted itself to delivering medical supplies, running awareness drives, helping in funeral rites, making online education accessible for financially weak students, and other such causes.

During the first wave of the pandemic, there was hardly enough information concerning the virus and the only way to stay protected was to stay at home. While the fortunate could afford the confinement, things were quite rough for the financially weak, especially as this virus spreads fast in cluster settlements.

Like many other frontline warriors, the ABVP members also braved the pandemic to launch a massive Covid-19 testing drive in Mumbai's Dharavi, which has a population density of nearly three lakhs per square kilometer. Thousands of people were tested for the virus and those found positive were isolated with the help of local hospitals. In the process, thousands of lives were saved.

In Delhi, the ABVP launched a similar drive called ‘Mission Aarogya — Sarve Santu Niramayah’. Under the drive, our student members went door-to-door in nearly 100 Delhi slums and JJ clusters to screen people for Covid-19 symptoms. The student activists also encouraged people to get vaccinated during the drive.

The dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases during the second wave of the pandemic left hospitals overwhelmed. Meanwhile, the spurt in Covid-19 infections triggered a massive demand for medical oxygen and Covid-related drugs and a consequent drop in their availability. In such times, we, at ABVP, started drives to connect the people in need with verified suppliers of medical essentials. To ensure timely delivery of medical supplies in Delhi, the national capital was divided into nine zones among ABVP members. Besides, we also carried out distribution of food packets among the people in need.

Despite the best efforts of our doctors, several people lost the battle to Covid-19. Unfortunately, in some cases, the bereaved family members could not participate in the funeral rites as they were also down with Covid-19. Thus, ABVP members, country-wide, pledged to help such families by performing all the last rites for the victim.

Our members took all precautions and ensured that victims receive an honorable farewell. Carrying out the last rites of Covid-19 victims was probably the most difficult task for us as the emotions involved were pretty intense. I applaud my young colleagues who were head strong and helped such families in their most vulnerable times.

In a bid to help pandemic-hit school students, the ABVP, in July 2020, launched 'Parishad Ki Pathshala'. Under the campaign, students with no access to the logistics required for accessing online classes were taught by ABVP activists and teachers in small groups. The students were taught several subjects free of cost. During the first and the second wave of the virus, we also helped thousands of students — a substantial number from North-eastern states and tribal areas in the country — reach their homes safely.

Ancient wisdom teaches us that the true character of a person comes out in a crisis. In 2020, the outbreak of Covid-19 brought forth such an unprecedented crisis that tested our resilience. At a time when a majority of us feared even the idea of stepping out of our homes, our young ABVP members actively participated in relief works, braving the possibility of contracting the virus. I believe that if members of all student organisations come forward with their innovative ideas, our nation will be able to tide over this crisis sooner. Additionally, working on the ground with the less fortunate will make students more sensitive and selfless, probably the two most important virtues needed in a leader.

At ABVP, we believe in the punar-nirman (reformation) of the nation through charitra nirman (character building). To this end, I urge more and more youths to work for the welfare of the society. As Swami Vivekananda said, the youths should become the torch-bearers of change.

 

(This article was written by Dr. Abhishek Tandaon, President, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Delhi State on the occasion of 73th Foundation day of ABVP which was on 9th Jul 2021)