Often, here at YouthKiAwaaz.com, we have been emphasizing on the need for rural development in India. Aapna Punjab is one such Non-Governmental-Organization committed to the socio-economic development of the rural backward classes of Punjab. Our Correspondent, Chandeep Arora, got an opportunity to interview Col. GS Sandhu, the Chairman of Aapna Punjab, based out of Amritsar.
Chandeep: Good Evening Sir, tell us about Aapna Punjab and the inspiration behind it.
Col Sandhu: Aapna Punjab is an NGO that mainly deals with the upliftment of the backward classes of Punjab, regarding education, health and the basic amenities. In early 2004, I managed the grim task of gettingÂ Nihaang Poohla (a notorious criminal in Punjab) behind the bars. I had to spend my time in the villages for the undertaking. I became aware of the miserable socio-economic conditions of the villagers. I thought there was a need to educate the people about right and wrong, there was a need to educate them about the social evils, there was a need to make them aware. Thus, I came up with Aapna Punjab in 2005.
Chandeep: I appreciate your effort sir! Give us an insight to some of the programs of Aapna Punjab.
Col Sandhu: Education being the most important step in spreading awareness, we have started an English medium school in the name of Shaheed Baba Deep Singh ji. We have 800 students till date and CBSE pattern is being followed in the school. Key stress is put upon English and computer education.
We have also initiated welfare centers for women. They are being motivated and steps are taken to make them self-sufficient. They are practicing stitching and handicrafts are being made available in the local market.
Major grass-roots campaign has been started to fight the drugs/AIDS menace which run round the year.
Chandeep: As an organization, what kind of problems do you face?
Col Sandhu: Well, being an organization the lack of funds is the basic problem we face. But the shortage of Assets is what every NGO has. The main obstacle is the growing unemployment. We don’t have any industrialization in this area. This is the reason of growing number of suicide cases in this region. I don’t understand why the government is not taking any steps to boom employment here. Also due to the stigma related to AIDS and other menaces, people are considered outcast here. So education is the only mean by which we can spread awareness amongst the populace.
Chandeep: Do you think that the social sector for youngsters has become a forgotten career option with lots of other opportunities coming up?
Col Sandhu: I don’t think so. Today’s youth are energetic and full of new ideas. They are showing commendable interest in the social sphere.
Chandeep: Khapp Panchayats are something that is really common in the backward areas of Punjab. Tell us about this. Is your NGO working against this?
Col Sandhu: These are community groups usually comprising elderly men that set the rules in an area comprising one or more villages. Marriages are not allowed amongst the people in the same gotra(sub-caste). Transgressors’ penalty can be serious and is usually execution.
The best way to spread consciousness about anything immoral is to educate the right. That is what we are doing. Through lectures and one to one interactions we are educating people about honor killings and at the same time, we are making them aware about the harms in abortion of girl child. The male-female ratio is really less in these areas, so it needs a considerable attention.
Chandeep: There has been a lot of verbal and at times physical torture against the people from the UP community, commonly known asÂ biharis. They constitute a good amount of population of Punjab. To be precise around 250000. Do you think this approach will help us carry the notion of unity and diversity?
Col Sandhu: These people play an important role in development of the state. The main labor force in Punjab comprises mainly of these people. I don’t think without them we would have been able to develop so much. Here, I would like to tell you something about Wasil Khan. Wasil Khan is from Motihari (Bihar). He was thrown in jail for wrong reasons against him. Our NGO is taking up the case and we have demanded the complete description of the case under RTI and are somewhat successful in the motive too.
Chandeep: Do you think that the NGO’s have grown at a large in recent times and the main of a NGO is being replaced by “personal interests”?
Col Sandhu: I don’t totally agree on this point. An NGO is successful until and unless it shows results. To some extent there have been some false NGO’s and people have taken undue advantage of this. But the fakeness in the organization is revealed with the lack of funds and volunteers. So according to me if people are doing wrong they will stuck up at some time.
Chandeep: Sir, your message to the youth of India.
Col Sandhu: Education is the big stick for development. With the growing corruption cases, it is important for the youth to take over the governance. They have a lot of ideas and are novel in their approach. They will stop theÂ gundaraj.
Chandeep: It was really a pleasure to talk to you.
Col Sandhu: God Bless you. Thank you!