Nalandi Parisar: Door to wisdom
The student population of India forms the largest student body in the world, it would make the 4th biggest country in terms of population. It’s certain, that this pool of potential talent emerging from demographic transition would ride India towards becoming a global power. By 2020, India will be world’s youngest country with an average age of less than 29 years. With west, Japan and China aging, and 64% of India’s population in working age group, an unprecedented edge carries India in its journey towards social and economic development.
It will be unjustified to ignore the challenges that this young pool of human resource will face in this journey, in terms of basic infrastructure and supportive ecosystem to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. Additionally, one-fifth of the Indian urban population lives on less than a dollar a day, which is not going to change significantly in recent times and a situation of low income and expenditure level would have a negative impact in building capabilities of this young population.
Raipur, capital and the most populous city of Chhattisgarh, experienced an increase in number of students in city as it emerged as an epi-centre of growth for entire state. Raipur has emerged as one of the fastest growing cities in India, its strategic location on Mumbai-Kolkata highway, a mere 100 minutes connectivity with metros, absence of big cities nearby and progressive government provides immense potential to contribute towards a better India.
The relatively new, capital city has become an incubator for students with reputed educational facilities in terms of private and public schools, recently established higher education facilities of national repute like IIM, AIIMS, HNLU, NIT, III-T, IGKV, AYUSH University, IIT-Bhilai, Raipur University and support facilities in terms of coaching and training institutions. The influx of students from across the state for better educational opportunities increased pressure on the existing educational facilities in Raipur.
The Raipur district administration identified an opportunity: Creating a focal point of educational, recreational and spiritual activities for students. The aim is to provide a competitive environment to students where they can read, study and innovate towards better opportunity. The idea was to create a learning environment for students in terms of Oxy-Reading Zone equipped with a Youth Tower and recreational facilities. The theme for the facility has been kept as Oxy-Reading Zone and Youth Tower: Reach the Sky.
The youth needed an interactive environment to study and the initiatives of district administration weren’t limited to just a reading facility but a state of art facility operating 24/7, having knowledge bank and providing natural environment for mental and physical development of young minds.
The Oxy-Reading Zone is located in 6 acre area on GE Road, in the middle of the education hub of city with NIT, Science College, Ayurvedic College, AIIMS and University in vicinity. The area also houses thousands of students from across Chhattisgarh living in hostels and PGs. The area has been specifically chosen with consideration given to student density, cost and travel factors.
The foundation of the Youth Tower and Oxy-Reading Zone was laid by district administration through District Mineral Trust. The committee consist of Collector as Chairman, other government officers and public representatives like Member of Parliament and two Member of Legislative Assembly as members. The proposal was appreciated and go ahead was given by the committee. The SPV “Smart City Ltd.” has been appointed as the construction agency for the project. The total project cost is estimated at INR 12 cr., with INR 10 cr. from District Mineral Trust and INR 2 crore being provided by Environment Conservation Board in support of project
Another significant initiative was undertaken in name of “पुस्तक दान-महादान अभियान”, a drive to collect useful readable books from people across the district. The interested people can donate books as well as funds for procurement of books. The donation through cheque has to be in the name of “पुस्तक दान-महादान अभियान रायपुर” and the funds can also be donated directly at HDFC bank’s Bhanpuri branch, IFSC Code HDFC0002110 to the A/c No. 50100128495200. People outside Raipur can also donate books through post on the address “Central Library, opposite Ayurvedic College, GE Road, Raipur, and Chhattisgarh – 492001.
An initial corpus of Rs. 1 cr. has been created from DMF towards staffing of books in the proposed Youth Tower. As of now, more than 7000 books have been collected through this drive.
The Oxy-Reading Zone will boast a Youth Tower with capacity of 1700 seats (inside, rooftop & open). A central library already existed with capacity of 600 students but the facility came under tremendous pressure with memberships getting full within the first year of its operation along-with demand for approx. 10 new membership request being received daily.
The green building of Youth Tower will provide for ambient natural light and pleasant temperature by reducing heat effects. A number of casual relaxed open areas, trees having medicinal and aromatic values, tree shades across the campus, trails, open air gym, and pond provide a tranquil environment for well-being of students.
The presence of basketball court, a Facility Plaza with necessary amenities like cafeteria, ATM, bookstore, bank, medical store, stationary shop, sports good outlet & electronic store complete this ecosystem of learning and interacting in the lap of nature. The facility plaza will provide for sustainability of the project by the rent from above mentioned amenities. The facility is differently abled friendly and will operate 24/7, open to members only. The membership charges are nominal at Rs. 200 per month.
The concept of community learning in lap of nature is a 2700+ year old practice in Indian educational system, the same environment has been tried to be created for the students in the Oxy-Reading Zone. The WHO norms have been strictly adhered to in compliance to required area for green space per person in the youth zone. The zone also provides opportunity for environmental learning with presence of plethora of plant species.
The initiative has been supported by the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Dr. Raman Singh. The Qxy-Reading Zone and Youth Tower have been taken-up as best practice by state government and it has directed all other districts to replicate the model. Youth Tower and Oxy-Reading Zone are unique projects catering to social empowerment being implemented by district administration in capital city of Chhattisgarh.