By Imran Inamdar, TwoCircles.net
Solapur: November 3 was a proud day for the family of Aftab Sheikh, and in fact, his entire neighbourhood in Solapur. The 22-year-old had already brought laurels to this area by becoming the first person to graduate, but on that memorable day, he found out that he was to receive the Indira Gandhi Award of 2015-16 at the hands of president of India Pranav Mukherjee. This was in recognition of his meritorious services through the National service scheme (NSS) for all round development.
A jubilant Aftab, who received the award earlier this week, said that the idea of giving something to the society was always strong in his mind. “Ever since I joined Dayanand College in 2014 in Solapur University, I knew that I wanted to work for the society, and hence enrolled myself in the NSS,” he said in a conversation with Twocircles.net.
In an attempt to create awareness regarding social service and devotion towards society, the NSS was established in 1969 by the government and implemented at college level.
Under this scheme all the colleges carry different social ,educational and health related activities in coordination with the students .
Currently nearly 36 lakh people and students have attached to this scheme through proper channel. As a recognition of the efforts put in this by students, every year the government of India facilitates 30 selected students for their selfless contribution and remarkable performance.
Aftab said that the award was a recognition and culmination of his various efforts at the local, district, zonal and national levels. “As part of the NSS, over two years every participant has to take part in at least one social camp. But during this period, I participated in about 11 camps and have worked on a range of issues like sanitation, education, health, organising blood camps and even repairing roads,” he told Twocircles.net. He had also been a keen participation of the National Integration Camps, and had represented Maharashtra. Last year, he had been felicitated by the Maharashtra government.
The son of worker at a printing press, Ahmed says that the best part of the experience of working with the NSS was that he got to meet people from across the country, apart from being able to work for the benefit of the society. “It took us from merely talking/discussing an issue to actually doing something about it,” he says. Recounting an experience, he says, “Last year, we were in a village in Solapur district, which had very bad roads. We knew that we could not repair roads all by ourselves, but nevertheless, we decided to level the road to the best of our ability, fill up the potholes, and clean the roadside. Seeing our work, the district panchayat was so impressed that they got a bulldozer to help. Again, we did not make it a perfect road, but we showed that we could do something,” he says.
Another example he quotes was how, as part of a sanitation programme, seven members of the NSS built two toilets in another village. “The Government of India has been pushing the idea of sanitation and toilets for long, but when we went to a village there were hardly any. So, although we had only a week, we built two toilets in the village. Of course, it was not enough for everyone, but it was the idea that showed real results to the local people,” he says.
No wonder then, that the award and the recognition that Aftab has received has not come as a surprise to his mentors. Programme coordinator of the NSS and teacher of Aftab, Dr. V.C Dande said, “Aftab is an energetic fellow, with an extremely mature understanding of the society around him. He has a great attitude and works harmoniously with a team, traits that are essential to succeed in this area. As his teacher, his award is an unforgettable experience for me also. I can’t express my happiness in words.”
Dr. V.P Ubale, principal of Dayanand College, told twocircles.net, “Our college is honoured to have a student like Aftab. He has an amazing social attitude, and he has used all the available opportunities to render invaluable work towards both his college and the nation.”
In fact, it is Aftab’s zeal to work on social issues that prompted him to enroll in Masters in Journalism at Mumbai University. “I want to work as a reporter, so that I can bring out the issues of people, and also bring out the positive stories which emerge from our society,” he said.