Cover image: A school student conducts a door-to-door survey to assess the needs of financially impovershed families in Howrah. The project has been sponsored by a California-based nephrologist Dr Malay Das (who originally hails from Howrah),
THE TELEGRAPH CALCUTTA
08th October 2021
Indian nationalist and freedom fighter Gopal Krishna Gokhale once remarked: "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." The report below in today's Telegraph Calcutta proves once more what Gokhale said years ago holds good even today. Howrah Vivekananda Siksha Kendra that works with these children has entrusted them with this responsibility in the run-up to Puja to keep them gainfully engaged, make them socially responsible and wean them off mobile phone browsing. This is a novel initiative which could be the first in India. Isaac Gomes, Associate Editor.
Calcutta: A group of school and college students who struggle for a living have been going door to door to find out the needs of senior citizens, children and families equally or more financially deprived than them.
The organisation that works with these children has entrusted them with this responsibility in the run-up to Puja to keep them gainfully engaged, make them socially responsible and wean them off mobile phone browsing.
Howrah Vivekananda Siksha Kendra has been granted a fund of Rs 1,15,000 from a nephrologist who lives in the US to distribute clothes, food, bed sheets and mosquito nets among the poor for Puja.
Malay Das, who lives in California and is originally from Howrah, wanted students of the centre to be directly involved in the project and learn from it, said the head of the centre.
For about a fortnight, the senior girls and boys and some juniors have been making these visits in and around their villages in Bagnan, Howrah.
Tota Pradhan, 20, who has been visiting homes, said: "We talk to them, look around to understand what their needs are. The job assigned to us by our centre is to find out what the individual needs are so they can be provided items accordingly." Tota is a Bengali honours student.
Having struggled during the pandemic, Tota said it was not difficult to under- stand their problems. "What the families are going through is not new to us. Some are vocal about their problems but for most, we observe and ask a few questions." The questions range from what their source of income is, how many family members they have, if they have family members who worked in other states and if they returned during the pandemic.
Apart from providing items of basic necessity, the senior girls also accompany younger girls to shops to buy accessories, like earrings and nail paint, before Puja. "Earlier, their mothers would buy these items but during the pandemic, they have been busy making ends meet and can't purchase these things. Their excitement is very heartwarming," said Smritikona Ghorai, a Class XII student.
"We wanted our students to do the survey to be sensitive towards other people's needs and problems. We are also initiating the distribution through them, which helps them take responsibility and develop organisational skills," said Tanmoy Patra, founder, Howrah Vivekananda Siksha Kendra.
Patra said that with the reduced academic pressure during the pandemic and the access to smartphones, some students have become addicted to the screen.
"The phone takes up most of their time and we cannot take it away because they need it for classes. So, we thought of engaging them in these activities to keep them occupied and give them a purpose," he said.