Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) [India], September 17 (ANI): A rural library movement is sweeping across the country especially during the time of COVID-19 when most of the schools and colleges have been shut down. A former MLA's son is also trying hard to provide educational facilities to underprivileged students in remote areas during the ongoing health crisis.
Under a noble initiative started by Akil Bakhshi, the founder and director of an NGO Ranjeet Bakhshi Jankalyan Sabha, 21 libraries have been set up so far in the Nurpur area of Himachal Pradesh's Kangra district.
Speaking about the same, Akil told ANI, "I started this initiative somewhere around July 16, 2021, and we are working in a very limited area and this area is called Nurpur and it is located in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. What we are doing is that we are getting a central library in a common point and at the same time, we are providing books to all the Panchayats. The students do not have to travel all the way to the central library and they can get the books there itself, that is the way we function right now. We have already opened 21 libraries and there are 30 more to go."
With this free library setup, the NGO, which was started as a small venture in April 2021, aims to help students by providing them with books for competitive examinations.
"What we are doing is we have divided the books into three sections -- the first section of books is for competitive examinations. These are the people who want to take up different exams after class 12th, somebody wants to go for Civil Services, and somebody wants to go for NDA so we are providing competitive examination books for this purpose," Akil said.
The organisation is trying to provide books to "any student who is financially incapable of buying these books can get them from the library."
Students will also be able to avail career counselling sessions at the libraries.
"We will have a couple of experts who will guide the students on what books they should be reading. We will be conducting seminars as well. Career counselling will be available at the libraries or we are thinking of setting up a virtual system, we will set up a time and say for two hours, these experts will be available so whosoever wants to can attend the sessions," Akil said.
"We will try and find a common spot where these people can go and the students can gather and ask whatever questions they have in their mind," he added.
However, establishing anything new comes with its own set of challenges.
Detailing more about the hindrances, Akil shared, "We are trying for online access as well but the thing is, Himachal Pradesh is a mountain area so we do not always have internet reception at all places. A lot of people here do not have the financial capability to afford phones and laptops, we are trying to have a balance, whoever can afford, we will try to arrange virtual sessions and whoever cannot, we will ensure that they do not suffer because of that."
Akil started this initiative in the memory of his late father, Ranjeet Bakhshi, Former MLA, Nurpur. He passed away on December 6 2020.
"I started this initiative in the memory of my father. My father was a former MLA of this region from 1996-1999. During his tenure, he had upgraded 16 schools from primary to secondary in a single day. He was keen on setting a central library here but he did not get the time in terms of his tenure and there was a lot of political involvement which did not allow the things to go forward. He discussed this with all of us. On a personal level, he sponsored the education of a lot of underprivileged kids," he recalled.
Akil also spoke about the funding process of the free library initiative.
He said, "I am primarily using my father's political pension for the same. We also have some donors who are helping us towards this initiative...these donors are national and sometimes international. They are seeing our work on social media and they are helping us establish these libraries."
Setting up libraries is a long procedure. Talking about it, Akil said, "First we approach the local representative of the panchayat that we are aiming to go in, we speak to them, either the pradhan or vice-pradhan. If they can provide us with a library space in the panchayat ghar or mahila mandir or a society building or any public area, we establish the library there."
"In case they are not able to do it if the panchayat ghar is too small or there is little area, then we can go and look for a private building. That way depending on the space, we go ahead with establishing the library. We make sure that whenever we go there we have the students of 10, 12 and graduation collected there so that we can inform them and they can go ahead and share that on their local WhatsApp groups," he added.
Apart from the library initiative, the organisation also handles individual cases of people who are financially broken. The NGO crowdfunds finances for medical ailments, building toilets, constructing houses, purchasing assisting devices for the physically challenged, supporting widows and other single women. (ANI)