There have been rare instances when a State voluntarily took the initiative to promote the Yuva, the youth of the State for cultural development, sportsmanship, inculcating leadership qualities, and overall growth of personality.The program was proposed in the Odisha cabinet and was approved on March 14, 2018. It is one of its kind; the largest youth engagement programs India had ever witnessed, the Biju Yuva Vahini.
This article aims to bring to light the kind of work this scheme has accomplished throughout the State, the issues addressed through this program, and help you analyze whether the Biju Yuva Vahini has been able to make a positive impact.
What is the Biju Yuva Vahini scheme?
Introduced by the Department of Sports and Youth Services (DSYS), the Biju Yuva Vahini programme was designed to direct the enormous youth energy towards social issues, community engagement activities and leadership. It is an overall development programme where youth between the age group of 15-35 years are taken as volunteers to instil nation-building through participation in social action projects. Through this scheme, the members participate and promote cultural programmes, creativity and awareness.
Within this there is a “Mu Hero” campaign which contributed in the identification and celebration of the unsung heroes from all Panchayat.
Since then, hundreds of Biju Yuva Vahini Units have been created all across the State covering various panchayats and urban local bodies. The Biju Yuva Vahini has launched various campaigns on social issues and awareness programs such as:
- ‘Mu Hero, Mu Odisha’ campaign
- Awareness on the Motor Vehicles Act – Rakshak
- Anti-Narcotics campaign
- Cleanliness campaign
- Drug de-addiction drive
- Green Odisha initiative
- Green Mahanadi Mission
The ruling BJD party’s youth volunteers under the Biju Yuva Vahini did a lot of work in the damage assessment under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), in the identification of the houses damaged by cyclone Fani in 2019. This immensely helped Odisha undertake the reconstruction and revival activities since various districts of the State were heavily damaged by the severe cyclone.
The Biju Yuva Vahini volunteered for help, distributing food and helping in restoration work. The volunteers from Balasore also donated Rs 20,000 to the CM Relief Fund in order to restore affected lives in the cyclone. Exemplary efforts put in, was a sure indication of the Biju Yuva Vahini scheme’s foundation aim that the youth is engaged in social and nation-building activities.
The kind of dream Odisha was seeing; saw its light when the BYV volunteers actively planted 100 saplings to beautify the region and thereby sending across the message of a cleaner & greener Odisha. Usage of dustbins, cleaner drains, and hygienic surroundings was the face of new Odisha districts which was only possible due to the involvement of the zealous youth of the Biju Yuva Vahini members.
Sports being one of the main ideologies for starting this initiative was seen when Odisha arranged hockey matches for their people. The rural districts of Odisha were taken by surprise when volunteers installed LED screens in the areas. This was done to ensure that the people don’t miss the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup matches live on the screen.
The BYV volunteers also took up the initiative to provide education in local areas to children from classes I to V, who had previously dropped out of school. Thereby, provided the children an environment suitable enough for studying.
With the increase in members in the Biju Yuva Vahini program, various activities were undertaken which included installing water booths for the public, crowd management during public gatherings such as Durga Puja, distributing food to the needy, candlelight march to pay respect for the Pulwama martyred Jawans.
Needless to say, the kind of work they have been doing is worth the praise. One of the other instances was when the BYV youth helped a local with his father’s last rites. Since the father was suffering from leprosy, no one came forward from the village community for his assistance, but the Biju Yuva Vahini members’ noble and timely action was laudable.
Development of rural and urban local bodies by sanctioning sports equipment under the Biju Vahini shows efforts of the State to instill propensity in sports in the people of Odisha.
The Biju Yuva Vahini provided a platform to the youth who took initiatives for a better, brighter, and healthier future. Service to mankind being the idea behind these selfless acts, Biju Yuva Vahini brought the Odia youth together for a noble cause. They have been in the forefront even in these trying times, spreading awareness about COVID-19, maintaining social distancing, and hygiene. The BYV members are seen distributing food and essential items to the needy amidst lockdown. Disinfecting villages and distributing masks to the people by the members showcase the efforts to combat the virus by the youth of Odisha.
Why is Biju Yuva Vahini becoming problematic?
This programme is an ambitious attempt of the BJD Government to involve youth in various social activities and bring out the leadership qualities in them. However, political propaganda around this scheme has pointed several fingers on the kind of money this scheme has spent and how much more it is planning to spend in future.
The scheme has utilized crores of rupees to promote the BYV idea. Now, the kind of money that has been spent, was it really needed? Why was there a need to evade the audit of the budget allocated under the Biju Yuva Vahini?
Several RTIs were filed to know the allocation of funds under the BYV program. There were concerns among the taxpayers regarding their money being recklessly spent. The Accountant General of Odisha raised concerns about the same and asked the State government not to spend on the Biju Yuva Vahini program until the audit of the allocated budget is not completed. The AG had previously asked the BYV about the source of their funding. The PIO released the Budget and details of fund allocation under the BYV. Rs 90 crores were allocated to the same and later district-wise breakup of the same were also provided upon repeated queries.
The biggest concern was the usage of public funds recklessly. As per the Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs; Tushar Kanti Behera, a massive amount of more than Rs 100 crores was spent in the 2018-19 period by the State government in furthering activities under Biju Yuva Vahini.
Two petitions, one in July 2018 and second in April 2019, was filed in the Orissa HC, seeking to quash the Biju Yuva Vahini Scheme. Both petitions raised concerns that it was wastage of public money and only furthered the political interest of the ruling party BJD. No judgment regarding the same has come so far. Furthermore, the distribution of free mobile phones among BYV members brought an upsurge of criticisms from BJP. Accompanying the budget concern, reports of Biju Yuva Vahini members joining BJP came into light.
Is Odisha’s financial condition conducive for such expenses on schemes?
The Odisha State Government came up with various schemes including
- Ama Gaon Ama Bikash (AGAB),
- Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY),
- free mobile for women SHGs & farmers,
- financial aid to SHGs,
- various benefits to construction workers;
- Ama Ghare LED light, setting up of Special Development Council.
The State is already neck-deep in debts and the announcement of new schemes seems unreasonable on the part of the Government. The debt burden in the financial year 2019 touched a new mark of approximately Rs 87,650 and is likely to rise more in 2020. That is not a good number.
Despite all this, the State has been able to achieve debt sustainability from debt-stress indicating growth and development. The Government is focusing on education, health care, low-income group, and the agricultural sector. So far, the State has shown proactive development and a watchful growth from its previous financial crisis. That is a respite to the declining financial health of the state.