Youth of India are our present and future leaders. While both civil society and government has many programs striving to provide them formal education, we still lack in making them ‘literate’ about our Democracy. That is, there is no syllabus in our education system to impart literacy about the basic processes, laws, systems – and most importantly, values – of our great Democracy. Such literacy should ideally be inseparable from a complete education. Constitutional Literacy is, in fact, imperative if youth are to develop into active, aware, sensitive citizens and leaders of the country.
With this idea in mind, Anubhuti launched the “Constitution Literacy Inter-Collegiate Competitive Exam” on occassion of Republic Day on 26th January 2019. The idea was, what better way to understand “the idea of India” – our values, principles, legal framework, rights & responsibilities and the very spirit of democracy – than to study the Indian Constitution? This momentous document, which was put together after years of labour by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar along with other leaders of our freedom movement, gave shape to independent India and is lauded and studied throughout the world. A cursory reading of the Preamble shows us why. It is the embodiment of a true democracy, with values of equality, justice, equity, liberty, fraternity, soveriegnty, dignity and non-discrimination.
This exam was open for college students across Kalyan-Dombivali, Ulhasnagar and few areas in Mumbai. Cash prizes were announced for 1st, 2nd and 3rd rankers.
Response from colleges was phenomenal, with enthusiastic support of teachers and management, and above 130 registrations! As could be seen, there was a need for such a program and the education system responded wholeheartedly.
The next step was preparing for the exam.
On 4th January 2019, a workshop was organized with constitution expert Suresh Sawant and Anubhuti founder Deepa Pawar giving a comprehensive overview of the Indian Constitution, its history & making, its Preamble and its salient features. Reading material in Hindi, Marathi and English were distributed to all students.
Simultaneously, an exam setting committee was formed: Sunita Bhavar (Ex-Principal, Phanse Balmandir), Sangharsh Apte (M.Phil from Tata Institute of Social Sciences), and Advocate Manju Khobradage set the paper in 3 languages. The quality of a competitive exam was upheld fully – complete with separate Paper setting committee and Paper correction team, supervisors, hall tickets, anonymous seat numbers!
Model College in Dombivali East collaborated in this program by providing classrooms to hold the workshop and actual exam. On 20th January, the actual exam took place. About 90 students sat through the 2.5 hours paper and one could see the palpable tension and last minute studying!
Being a commerce student I used to stay far away from politics.. but as I started studying for this exam I realised how the Constitution and politics is integral to my life as an economics professional. Why don’t we study this as a compulsory subject?!– Ruchita Rai, SIA College, Dombivali (E)
There was about a week to correct the answer papers after this – and special thanks to checkers Alka Apte (activist, Stree Mukti Sanghatna), Vijay Kharat (activist, Goonj and YUVA), Ketan Bhosle (Professor, Sathye College). After lot of effort and moderation, 3 winners were chosen. The competition was so close that there was .5 difference of marks between the 3! Seeing the quality of answer papers, 2 consolation winners were also chosen.
Finally arrived the big day. On 29th of January, the prize distribution ceremony was held at the aptly named Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Hall in Dombivli (E) where over 150 people gathered to show their support for this campaign and for the participating youth.
Key note speakers Mukta Dabholkar, (daughter of Narendra Dabholkar and senior activist of Andha Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti), Disha Pinky Sheikh (transgender activist) and Arati Kade (student activist, TISS) spoke movingly about the deep relevance of the Constitution because of which the most vulnerable sections of Indian society today have the right to live with dignity. No matter how much discrimination exists in Indian society, the Constitution negates it all and states unequivocally the equality between all individuals.
This event had students and faculty from 8 colleges- Model College, Dombivli, CHM College, Ulhasnagar, Saket College Kalyan (East), Sndt Womens College, Ghatkopar, Sakharam Sheth Vidyala,Katai-kole, The SIA College of Higher Education, RKT college Ulhasnagar, and Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work.
The examination’s paper setters, exam hall supervisors, paper checkers and of course participating students shared their experiences. The common message was the importance and unfortunate rarity of such an opportunity for youth to understand and engage with the Constitution of India.
Badlache Parv Kala Manch – a cultural group formed of youth leaders from Kolegaon, Bamanwada and Raahi – performed songs relevant to the occassion.
CHM College made an almost clean sweep with Sweety Shelke winning the first prize, Supriya Pandey from Saket College winning the second prize, and Dhammashri Morey taking home the third prize – again from CHM. Sunayana Borude and Prerana Kaware won the first and second consolation prize respectively, both once again from CHM College.
We would like to take this opportunity thank to all those who were a part of this process, our paper setters and paper checkers mentioned above, exam hall supervisors- Sonalee Shirke, Amartya Modi, Ganesh Appa Ogale, Ojas Shetty, Ravneet , Palavi Sudhir, Kalyani Deshpande and Sonali Poojari, volunteers including Ayush Kumar Yadav for documention, well wishers who took time out of their busy schedule to attend this event, the participating colleges and faculty and most of all the students who gave this initiative such spirit!
Special mention to Anubhuti’s Kadam Badhate Chalo youth leaders who took care of logistics during all 3 events of the program. Also thanking Martha Farrell Foundation, PRIA (Society for Participatory Research In Asia), India, Pro Sport Development for supporting this program financially.