Arunava Dhar (21),a student of the Smt Chandibai Himmathmal Mansukhani College in Ulhasnagar,was not very happy when he first learnt about a survey of civic services as part of the Foundation Course project in his second year Bachelor of Commerce course.
I wondered how students are concerned with civic services anyway,why students should be dragged into the jurisdiction of local self-government? recalled Dhar.
But now,having successfully participated in the joint survey by Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation and the college to gather feedback from citizens on various services and facilities provided by the local municipality,Dhar regrets his earlier resentment.
Besides the fact that joint initiative of the civic body and college has been shortlisted as one of the top 30 entries from more than 100 such projects for the National Urban Water Awards,the students associated with the survey are now grateful they had an opportunity to reach out to the community.
Through this survey we were exposed to the ground realities ¿ the difficulties faced by the people. Some of the problems confronting the people were their ignorance of where to go with their civic problems. We were appalled to find people living with total disregard to hygiene, said Dhar who was also entrusted with supervising other students in his capacity as a group leader.
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Hetal Bhavsar initially thought it was impossible to conduct such a mammoth survey and,that too,during the monsoons. Suspecting us to be salesmen,some people slammed the door on our faces. But overall it was an amazing experience, recalled Bhavsar,who is now in her final year of her Arts course.
The survey broke commonly held notions among students of civic officials and employees. We thought that the civic officials and employees would be lazy people whiling away their time. When we embarked on the survey,we realized the magnitude of their work and the difficulties under which civic employees function, said Bhavsar.
For Snigdha Gauniyal,a third year science student,this activity gave her confidence and opportunity to build her leadership qualities. Taking feedback from people made us realize our own role as responsible citizens,something we were oblivious to while in the protected environment of our home, said Gauniyal.
Teachers associated with the project vouch for the fact that the survey immensely benefited the students. There is a perceptible change in the personality of the students. Some of them developed leadership qualities,team spirit,management abilities and were sensitized about their community, said Dr Samuel Wesley,co-coordinator of the project.
Prof Nilu Bhatia who has been coordinator of the project since its inception said: Earlier these students lived in their own world dominated by their peer group. Many did not understand local self-government. Now students realize that civic officials are approachable. With this project the students were able to identify with the community, said Bhatia who has been a coordinator of the project since its inception.
As student Dhar summed it up: Everybody cannot become part of an NGO,so this was the easiest way to serve the community. I strongly feel that such activities should be part of academic curriculum in all the colleges.