DTU Times interviewed the office bearers of National Service Scheme (NSS) DTU on the occasion of 50 years of establishment of NSS.
NSS is celebrating 50 years of its establishment this year. How would you describe the evolution of NSS throughout these years and how has it benefited the volunteers as well as the community?
NSS has come really far ahead from the point of its inception in 1969. The evolution has also expanded our domain of work to a great extent. NSS DTU is the largest student-volunteer organisation on our campus with over 300 volunteers. The society has a variety of projects and events belonging to almost every possible domain. Three years back, the society had very few events but today we have events almost every week and a plethora of opportunities to volunteer. Apart from the addition of new projects like Voter ID camps, Recycle Today, Voice of animals, Juvenile Centre visits and Paathshala, our existing projects have also evolved. For example, Kalam Ko Salam used to have weekly visits to a nearby open shelter but now it has daily visits. Another important aspect of this growth story has been the rising influence of social media and our online campaigns like Green Diwali and awareness posts in cases of humanitarian crises. Our Recycle Today project collected more than 2800 Kg of waste paper and recycled it into more than 1900 notebooks for distribution among the underprivileged in just its Phase I. All this has been possible due to the hard work of our seniors and volunteers who have worked selflessly for the benefit of the masses.
DTU has plenty of animals on campus and many a times students face a variety of issues regarding this. Have any measures been taken to deal with such situations?
Under the banner of Voice of Animals, we have many active volunteers who always come forward to help animals in need. We receive calls and messages from people for supporting animals in the campus and the number of such SOS calls is growing each year. Our initiatives have ranged from vaccinating dogs to even holding animal welfare sessions in collaboration with animal rights activists. One improvement we are looking forward to is getting the people around us more aware so that they don't always wait for us to act, rather, they themselves become the ones who lend a helping hand.
Mental health is an important issue these days and measures to remove the stigma associated with it are being discussed widely. How has NSS DTU incorporated mental health into its agenda?
NSS DTU has organised workshops in the university related to the same in the past. We have had acclaimed psychiatrists take these sessions. They were designed to educate students about how they should try to resolve issues related to anxiety, depression, trauma, etc., wherein both the case of the person being the victim, as well as the comforter, were taken care of. Another way in which the agenda of mental health has been picked up by us is the organisation of Adolescent Awareness camps in schools. Through these camps, the volunteers try and listen to the problems of teenagers hitting puberty and also try to dissociate the stigma that puberty carries around it. They also try to help prevent the bullying and shaming one is subjected to while hitting puberty due to the ignorance of one’s peers.
What are the barriers you face while putting up events, campaigns or delegating work to volunteers for various programs and how do you overcome these barriers?
Our greatest strength lies in our number of volunteers but it also often becomes the biggest issue with our events/projects. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to motivate such a large team to remain active and volunteer for events. Also, coordinating such a humongous team becomes a tedious task. The fact that most of the students are day scholars further aggravates the problem. We are confined to having events on free slots of volunteers because one cannot have events post academic hours (6 PM onwards). We have quite a few volunteers from B. Tech. (Evening), we have to ensure that they get a fair chance of participation.
One of our most effective tactics to deal with this problem has been replicating the decentralization model one observes in organisations. The structure of NSS DTU is such that all new recruits are assigned to groups of around 10 people with two mentors, who are among the most active volunteers recruited in the previous year. These mentors guide the new recruits regarding the workings of the society and take periodic updates to ensure that they are volunteering for events/projects. The entire body is managed by a group of Executives and the Council which is horizontal so as to promote decentralization.
What do you think your previous councils have done well and what would you like to implement differently to meet your vision for the current academic year?
The most important legacy of our previous councils, in our opinion, has been the horizontal structure of our council. Every council member is equal and has an equal say in all major decisions. This leads to all department/sector heads being independent in taking initiatives under their respective domains. We believe this has been an important factor in facilitating the increase in the number of events/projects. We have recruited a greater number of volunteers this year, foreseeing the continuation of greater volunteering opportunities and to avoid situations like last year when we had to even call for volunteers from outside the society to fulfil our requirements.
The previous councils have kept the NSS community very well bonded along with increasing the number of initiatives. This is very important for any community. We need to continuously evolve so that we can look for solutions in a more efficient manner. The only thing that has to be maintained more efficiently is the interaction among the newer volunteers of the society which is slightly less as compared to that among the senior, more active volunteers. This academic year, we aim to increase the same with a greater number of departmental meetings and keep up the legacy of the previous councils.
What are your criteria for recruiting students to work with NSS and what would you like to say to those wishing to work with NSS in the future?
We receive close to 500 applications every year. We usually select more than a third of these. There is only one criterion to become a part of NSS, and that is the zest to serve. Anyone who shares the collective mindset of "Not Me But You" is humbly welcome. We are a group of individuals whose ultimate goal is to bring about a positive change in the society through our actions. Thus, there is no single criterion which fits all schemes in NSS. Anyone wishing to join NSS should not focus on the role they play in bringing about this change, rather there should be a motivation to actually realise that change.
Students who want to be a part of and lead positive change in the society should join NSS. It will not just provide them with opportunities to volunteer but they will learn how to solve problems and tackle challenges. They will not just contribute towards developing the nation but in the process develop themselves (into better citizens) as well.