ARUNACHAL PRADESH: In a novel experiment, 12 Arunachal Pradesh youth are going to adopt villages across Changlang district. They will act as virtual missionaries to inculcate the habit of reading among children in the remote and insurgency-ravaged district.
The 12 youth were shortlisted out of 450 volunteers who had taught primary schools children for a month in August. All Class 12-pass; some are undergoing graduation while others are looking for a job. All 12 wanted to serve their community.
The idea took shape in the small office of District Magistrate Devansh Yadav, a former doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. It was through his intervention that five libraries that had been lying defunct for the past four-five years were revived in the district with funds locally generated.
Yadav says the whole idea is to promote reading and library education among children across villages in the district.
“We will start the village library movement with these 12 boys. Each of them will be given around 100 books. They will adopt villages, visit them regularly to create awareness among children on reading, and connect them to the nearest library and ensure reading becomes a habit for them,” Yadav says, explaining the movement.
The 12 will collaborate with Padma Shri awardee, “Uncle” Moosa, who hails from Kerala and has been promoting library education in Arunachal for the past 30 years. To take the movement forward, they will have an interactive session with him in the first week of November. Nestled on the picturesque hills of eastern Arunachal, Changlang, with a population of 1.7 lakh, shares its border with Myanmar.
After Yadav had hit upon the idea of reviving the libraries, help started pouring in. Local MLAs, cooperative societies, the district mineral foundation, etc., offered help in cash or kind for renovating the libraries. A 2016 batch Arunachal Pradesh Civil Services (APCS) officer Todak Riba had also generated funds from fellow officers. The aid enabled Yadav to revive the libraries at Changlang district headquarters, Jairampur, Kharsang, Miao and Khimiyong. One belongs to a cooperative society, and the rest to the state government.
The libraries had a stock of old books, but these didn’t have much connection to children. So, Yadav contacted Delhi-based Angelique Foundation that he had worked with before for the promotion of anganwadi education in Changlang. Authorities from the foundation visited the district and after seeing the conditions of the libraries, decided to extend its support. It donated some 4,000 children’s books, novels and activity-based books. The foundation had received these as donations from the citizens of Mumbai. The books have helped the libraries blossom.
To make them reader-friendly, computers were installed with Internet facility. Local artisans were roped in and they made these buildings look attractive. The idea was to make sure people visit the libraries and use them actively. Yadav says the people of Changlang do not have the habit of visiting libraries and he is trying to promote reading among children and youth up to age of 20 years.
“The relevance of libraries has been reduced tremendously in this age of information technology. We are trying to make libraries active spaces where we can organise competitions. Last time, we had a book review and an essay writing competition,” Yadav says. At the library at Changlang district headquarters, space was given to a self-help group (SHG) to run a canteen. So, it has become a restaurant-cum-library where people come to have a cup of coffee and read books as well, Yadav says.
The libraries also have books for competitive exams; many of these sent by the Allen Career Institute, Kota, after a tie-up with the organisation. “Recently, we took an initiative where APCS officers gave counselling to the civil services aspirants. The sessions were held at Jairampur and Miao. Since I have a medical background, I took some biology classes. We have some areas with unmet needs of a library. We will look into those gradually, and alongside try to revive other old libraries,” Yadav says.
Daming Angi, a member of the SHG restaurant-cum-library, says the readership here has increased. “Many students have started visiting the library after we opened the café. They mostly come in the evening, and some come with friends. They eat their food and read the books. We are doing brisk business,” informs Angi.
Selena Tangha, the second prize winner of the book review competition, says she was exposed to books on diverse subjects, thanks to the library. “Not just students, even the elders visit the library. We all are getting its benefits,” says the Class 10 student.
In “green” Arunachal, Yadav had earlier charged up villagers to make a living from waste by devising a unit to shred the non-recyclable plastic waste that is used in road construction. The unit with three shredding machines was set up with funds received from oil exploration major Oil India Limited, and is serving multiple purposes.
Efforts to improve readership
The libraries had a stock of old books, but these didn’t have much connection to children. So, Yadav contacted Delhi-based Angelique Foundation that visited the district and after seeing the conditions of the libraries, donated 4,000 children’s books. To make them reader-friendly, computers were also installed with Internet facility.