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Shaping the change agents of future

VSM is a unique model of development wherein young urban farm graduates are moulded to bring about a change in the agriculture scenario as change agents. This model based on ethics and social values is helping shape the lives of many young people making them socially responsible, professionally sharp and nationally proud.

The confident young members of VSM

Its evening at Pantnagar when students and faculty tend to retreat to their hostels and residences after classes. But it seems to be jubilant in the educational technology cell of the Department of Agricultural Communication where about forty students are still hanging around with some interesting task.

The environment is cheerful and energetic. It is a Public Speaking Workshop where a group-process is in advanced stage.

A peer group review of performance of each student, supported with critical comments of faculty members and self-analysis through video replay is going on in a tension-free environment. By the end, students get a complete analysis of their performance areas identified as strengths as well as deficiencies over which they will work in hostel to come prepared the next day.

‘It’s a regular routine for us’ tells Dr.Shivendra Kashyap, Associate Professor in the Department, who is looking after activities of Educational Technology Cell. ‘Its really encouraging to see students changing drastically by these scientific approaches of personality management. They are performing excellently even at national platforms. Our students have won National Cooperative Debate of NCCT continuously for last five years and National Elocution of National Agricultural Science Congress for last two years besides many other national achievements.’

He reveals that the personality management programmes of Pantnagar are designed not merely for employability and performance enhancement but for integrated development of life including ethical and spiritual being. ‘The bigger concern is that of outlook and attitude of youth; speaking skills is merely a peripheral element. Ultimately, we are preparing development agents who are expected to work at grassroot level’, he adds.

Youth Awakening Festival YUVA:

“Youth have the capacity to fix the destiny of ages.”

This is the single biggest event of the year where an effort is made to plunge the nation in a spirit of patriotism and rekindle the youth power of the country on the occasion of Swami Vivekananda Jayanti on 12th January each year. It entails a chain of events like National Debate competition, National Youth Symposium, zonal oratory and written quiz, competitions for school children, exhibition, rally and so on. The festivities culminate on Subhash Jayanti, 23rd January. During this period, a number of youth icons are invited to witness the events and provide guidance to the youth of the country. Students from sixty five universities including Delhi University, Jamia Milia, JNU, AMU, Tamilnadu Agricultural University, Anna Malai University, Orissa Agricultural University etc participated in YUVA 2011, held at Pantnagar in January 2011 which was organised around theme line- Youth Leadership Generation.

The genesis of Vivekanand Swadhyay Mandal

India has a vast youth population with great energies. But the energy of India’s youth is largely getting scattered instead of being concentrated in developmental efforts due to plethora of problems.

The awakened and conscious youth is the only enduring resource who can find solutions to the varied problems of the country lying in the path of social and economic development of masses. The situation implies that a major task in front of the nation today is generating conscious, responsible and visionary youth who can lead the nation out of her multiple challenges earmarked in the millennium development goals. But the task of youth leadership generation is not an easy one.

Believing that the awakened and conscious youth is the only enduring resource of a nation, Vivekanand Swadhyay Mandal, popularly known as VSM, started working in Uttarakhand with the hub at Pantnagar University since 1999.

The vision behind VSM approach is that the youth have inherent excellence which requires manifestation through proper environment or consciousness. To achieve this vision, a unique model based on valuing and promoting growth and learning, collaboration, inclusivity, diversity, openness, creativity, flexibility, innovation, and harmony has been standardized. VSM has the mission of shaping the lives of young people to make them socially dedicated, nationally proud, spiritually active and professionally sharp. VSM undertakes different kinds of activities round the year but with a central goal of evolution and growth of competent change agents among youth masses.

The replicable working model

The model is broadly based on the following major assumptions, which are the guiding principles of VSM.

– Leadership development is important because it provides members of a group with the skills, knowledge and abilities they need to more effectively work together to deal with issues facing a community or group

– Youth are capable of developing their leadership potential through the same processes (e.g. analyzing issues, increasing self awareness, developing skills, applying learning, etc.) as adults.

– People learn in different ways making it important that learning activities address a variety of learning styles.

– Participation in the global society of the 21st century will require people to appreciate and build on diversity, and to know how to work cooperatively and collaboratively with a variety of people.

– Effective implementation of programs requires involvement of the target group. This requires an inviting and inclusive mindset on the part of program planners, and means that the target group must be involved from the early planning stages upto the final implementation and evaluation.

The process has matured with time to realize that activities and endeavours are not only an attempt to help others to grow but are the underlying source of the growth of a team process. In other words, activities are the endeavour to emancipate and develop one self as well as help in the emancipation of others.

VSM Networking

The individual growth process

The three sermons for VSM process of youth development is: INTROSPECT → ORGANIZE → EVOLVE

These stages are not independent of one another but are in a continuous cycle.

Introspection involves looking within yourself in order to understand your vision and setting your goals. Your ability to do this depends on how much evolved your thoughts are. The more evolution you gain, the better will be your clarity with respect to your goals in life. When clarity of the aim of life is established, then honing the necessary skills is essential by organizing oneself and orienting the talents according to it. Working towards the set goal with dedication and sincerity leads to evolution of abilities and better understanding of life and its purpose.

Thinking beyond the visible line and acting according to it comes naturally to students as their personalities undergo constant churning and training through the multiple activities of VSM which systematically provides continuous churning and training to imbibe perseverance, dedication and goal-oriented way of working, a potential to stretch beyond the set limits, management of events, team building, leadership skills, mentoring and multi tasking which gradually result in high self esteem, value based and vision oriented life, understanding national and social perspectives and so on.

VSM in practical life

Aashish and Vikash completed their graduation in agriculture from Pantnagar and joined Orient Bank of Commerce at Mathura. They have developed a deep and distinct relationship with villagers by their honest and dedicated approach. They also organise a range of activities for youth development in the village schools and colleges on their personal initiative. People applaud their efforts and leadership in mentoring village youth and pay respect to them beyond words. The VSM spirit promoted them to stretch beyond their professional limits to take leadership in the new area.

Ramanuj Mishra worked with Praxair in Bangalore after his graduation in agricultural engineering and masters from IIT, Kharagpur. He was a VSM leader since his first year of graduation. He revamped the corporate social responsibility segment of his company through his personal interest for which his company bestowed upon him, World Youth Leadership award with economic incentive as well.

Shilpi Gupta was placed at Mumbai in Tata Consultancy Services after her graduation from Pantnagar. She remained in touch of VSM for three years through regular training and mentoring. She voluntarily adopted a blind school in Mumbai on regular basis where she used to devote her Saturdays and Sundays. She learnt brail to teach the kids over there. She kept on visiting this school as her weekend engagement until she moved to USA after her marriage. She is still in touch of her Blind School.

The networking to assist youth work

The model indicates the interlinkage of professionals, administration, alumni group and present workforce of Pantnagar students clubbing together to generate potential to help youth masses from schools, universities, corporate sector and development organisations. This model is effectively working for last couple of years, bringing laurels to the University and the state.

The networking also utilizes ICT tools for planned youth mobilization where Website, e-groups, SMS groups and e-mails have been put into complementary and supplementary roles.

The activities

The uniqueness of the project lies in the concept and strategy of youth empowerment through cultural awakening and using ICT tools to bring thousands of youth together for self-analysis, helping them in setting right priorities, providing proper counselling, refreezing them with reformed thoughts & decisiveness and providing them proper follow-up for reinforcement.

The concept of MICROLAB has been successfully utilized in the project, i.e., UNFREEZING-MOULDING-REFREEZING the youth mentality for positive attitude, social responsibility and generating national character. It is about changing the outlook of youngsters to carve them as responsible citizens.

Let us have an eye on the plethora of regular activities which we undertake, each having its own worth and uniqueness, adding a new dimension to our lives.

Public Speaking Workshops for students

“The shell must break before the bird can fly”

The biggest hindrance to our capabilities is our own self, the barriers of unknown fears. With the intention of breaking this selfcreated shell, the 4-5 days Public Speaking Workshops are organized, where under the guidance of well trained facilitators (mentors), the participants are provided with such an environment in which they can free themselves up and move beyond those self imposed limitations.

The participants get a glimpse of their unlimited potential as they try step by step to face the public and ultimately succeed in the developmental journey which they demonstrate through their constant improvement.

Sunday Service Classes for less-privileged sections

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Knowing that even a small attempt of ours can bring big difference to someone, VSM started Sunday classes of 2 hrs every Sunday morning – where students devote their time to teach the children coming from unprivileged sections of the society, solving their doubts in all subjects. Not just teaching but also sharing… understanding… listening and letting the hidden talents come out. In the process we also get their love and ownership of tiny tots which is the most surpassing experience.

Study Circle for self-illumination

“One needs to be illumined within in order to give light to others”

With the purpose of this intrinsic illumination, we have Study Circles for teammates every friday. Way to learning is through power-point presentation, sharing and discussion and other group processes. Participants discuss and share their views on topics from diverse fields like causes of poverty, challenges of our nation, cultural strength of rural areas, MDG and accomplishments etc. and get enriched from each others’ valuable thoughts and experiences.

Personality Development Workshops

“To know about a person, don’t look what he appears outside, look inside at his character”

Our personality development workshops can be described as a microlab. It involves games and exercises to open up the participants so that they can participate freely and wholly. Activities and group tasks are taken for realization of the importance of a personality trait through some discussions, games, movie clips and presentations. Processing of activities is done very minutely by experts. It develops to generalization and applications steps smoothly. Trained facilitators among students support the activities. The workshops highlights traits like assertiveness, self motivation, leadership skills and so on.

Spread of thought-generating literature

“We are what we think…”

With the intent of making good books and literature accessible to university students and rest of the public, we put up a Book stall in All India Farmers’ Fair organized twice every year in campus. The stall caters to the biblical quest of a wide variety of people by providing thought provoking literature. Added to this, are exhibitions related to our rich cultural heritage, moral values, eminent personalities’ lives and words intended on making positive change in the visitors. The stall is totally managed by students where about 10,000 to 15,000 books are sold every fair.

Daily Yoga and Meditation session

“Give up all sorts of weakness for weakness is misery, weakness is death.”

Physical strength and fitness is essential for the integrated development of personality. To realize this dimension of growth, regular yoga session is undertaken in the morning. In the end, we do meditation for a while to thank God for giving us a purposeful life. It is a very refreshing, healthy and pleasant start of the day and also serves to greet each other in the morning.

Guest Lecture series

“Let the fresh air come from all directions, let it enrich my soul.”

To enrich the students of university with their invaluable words, eminent scholars and experts from various fields are invited to share their experience and proficiency with the students of the university.

Former President Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam, CBI Director Shri Joginder Singh, Ex-Governor Lt. Gen. S.K.Sinha, are among the notable personalities who have been invited to address the students.

Creativity Camps

“Unless you unleash your thoughts, how can you unveil the truth?”

Creativity Camp of Summers is a 15 days’ activity organized by us every year where small kids to elderly ones of university periphery-all can explore and discover the talents lying within and simultaneously get a platform to display the same. Training is imparted in 12-13 different traits like dance, music, drawing, painting, stitching, calligraphy etc. to learn, share and grow simultaneously.

Learning from each other

VSM undertakes about three exposure trips each year to learn from our surroundings and from the good work done by great men.

Sankalp Alumni Meet is a confluence of younger generations with the older generations, that is, the annual gathering of the entire family. It’s a time to embrace our seniors and juniors, a time to introspect our renewed roles and a time to evaluate and plan for further activities. It is held once every year.

New Initiatives

VSM has recently expanded in corporate segment for sensitising the young professionals towards life skills with short term trainings. Three very successful and enriching trainings have been organized with support of experts from IIMs and other leading houses. Responses are encouraging.

A number of books have been published recently on various themes ranging from transcending life skills advocated by Indian culture and its great preachers to personality development, successful experiments on leadership generation etc, through the combined efforts of students.

The replicable-impactful model of youth work

VSM’s touch transforms the attitude and outlook of youngsters to go beyond their limits. Every VSM leader is a case to tell. Vivekanand Swadhyay Mandal is striving on regular basis to generate this rare spirit of dedication and devotion towards duty and responsibility in every circumstance. Hundreds of young students come in touch of VSM every year and feel blessed due to the rejuvenation and reorientation of life. Veterans call VSM, an University within an University, due to the scientificity and systematic approach. Presently, the challenge in front of VSM is to develop youth leadership to reap the demographic dividend in favour of agricultural development in particular and for the country in general.

Shreena Keswani, Neha Upreti and Gaurav Papnai

G.B.Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar 263145, Uttarakhand.
E-mail: gauravpapnai@gmail.com

References

Kashyap, S.K. et.al.(2011). Reaping the demographic dividend: A case of youth leadership generation, VSM publication,Pantnagar, India

Kashyap, S.K. et.al (2007). Five Decades of Pantnagar, University publication, GB Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar 263145, Uttarakhand

Kashyap, S.K. and Lohani, Richa (2010). Motivational Leadership, VSM publication, Pantnagar, India