Bengaluru: The Government of Karnataka launched a campaign, “Makkala Snehi (Children Friendly) Grama Panchayati Abhiyan” at the Panchayat Level, in the rural areas of the state on November 14, 2020, Children’s Day. This 10-week programme will continue till January 24, 2021.
During this period, various important initiatives, such as library-drives, vaccine-drives, nutrition-drives, mental-health awareness programmes and awareness on the importance of arts, theatre, and sports, will be addressed. Every week, a particular project will be undertaken to spread awareness among rural children. The main purpose of this campaign is to empower underprivileged children by satisfying their basic needs.
Speaking on the library drive, Mr Loknath, Panchayat Development Officer, Kadabagere, Bengaluru North taluk, said that they had started this mainly for high school students. He said: “Our intention is to make children read books.” He added that they wanted children to borrow a book once in 15 days and then go on to reading the next. The high school students would get to read several general knowledge books which would help them prepare for competitive examinations in future. They are also planning to introduce a few well-known books such as stories from the Panchatantra and Chandamama for primary school students to help them develop a habit of reading books from a tender age.
Mr Loknath said: “We have started the campaign, but where are the children?” Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, parents have been reluctant to send their children to libraries. “We have managed to issue only 20 student membership cards out of a total of 250,” he said. Despite teachers supporting the drive, not even 10 per cent of the students have turned up. Therefore, the panchayat committee has decided to send the librarian to every home and school(once they reopen) to issue the books. This indicates that the campaign hasn’t kicked off as planned.
The officer further said that they had planned to approach NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) to help the children decide on their respective careers. “We are going to invite a good orator who can inspire our children to take up jobs in civil services.” He said that the panchayats have started working on cleanliness-drives, Corona-awareness programmes, and the clean-drinking-water-drives simultaneously across the district.
“We started the vaccination program a few months ago and it’s running considerably well now. We are going to introduce sports and theatre in the coming weeks,” Mr Loknath said. He reiterated that more children should participate in these campaigns, as it would eventually benefit them. In the next few days, they are also planning to spread awareness about these programmes by using loudspeakers in auto rickshaws.
He stressed the need to make this programme not just a 10-week initiative, but an ongoing one. However, he felt that this campaign should not have been started during this pandemic time, as the efficacy of this initiative might not yield a 100 per cent result. The documentation process would also take a long time and only after the first eight-weeks would they be able to assess how the projects had been implemented, Mr Loknath said.
The government’s idea of starting this campaign is promising. But, it should have thought about the right-time in bringing out this scheme. Apart from the pandemic factor, convincing the parents and the children to participate in these programmes will be an arduous task for the Panchayat Boards. Various programmes for the benefit of rural children were initiated by the governments in the past, but most of them have not been fruitful. Will this new push break the barrier? Only time will tell.