Kolkata, February 21

While the overflowing discotheques on Valentine’s eve may tell a different story, the youth of Kolkata are not just happy-go-lucky kids. A case in point is twenty-something Pranaadhika Sinha, who founded Elaan — an organisation which works to spread awareness about child sexual abuse and other forms of violence.

Sinha floated Elaan a year after she completed school in 2004, Elaan was registered as an NGO in 2007. It boasts of 15 board members and 20 to 40 volunteers — all aged between 18-35.

Similar is the story of Anindya Hazra (also in his twenties), who is associated with Pratyay, an organisation that deals with the issues of sexual minorities. Pratyay has been vocal about intolerance against gay, lesbian and transgender communities in the city. The organisation has been behind several gay marches and workshops designed to boost confidence of the sexual minority in the city.

Chinsurah resident Soumyajit Bhar, in his final year of college, has floated Dinga — an NGO that grapples with environment-related issues.

“At first, people thought we were amateurs and foolish. But after they saw our work, they began to trust us,” says Bhar. At present, the group is spreading awareness on issues related to plastic pollution in the city suburbs.

Internet helps “When I started Elaan, it was like a one-man show. Very few people were aware of the issues we were dealing with and even fewer were ready to talk about it,” says Sinha. The internet, agree Sinha and Hazra, is a great help for youth groups trying to spread awareness about different causes.

“Initially, we started networking through the internet,” adds Sinha. Then, it was word-of-mouth awareness that helped sensitise the youth. While Elaan boasts of a blog carrying regular updates about its work apart from discussions on relevant issues, Hazra has set up a popular community on Orkut that invites like-minded people to share their views. Hazra describes his community on Orkut as “about living outside a predetermined heterosexist box”.

Again, it is not always the internet which gets these youth groups to reach out and function. Take for example, Abhirup Dasgupta, Debrupjyoti Dasgupta or Rohan Mukherjee.

These teenagers are a part of a group called South Pointers who have taken up the work of teaching slum children.

Working under the name of Daibaddha, the core work for the organisation is usually done by a group of teenagers.

The youngsters get no financial help from any organisation but conduct a regular evening school for roughly 40 children four days a week. “We try to help them get back to their books. The families of these children, displaced from near the Tollygunge rail colony, are mostly unemployed. Sending the children to school is next to impossible,” says Dasgupta.

Daibaddha boasts of 30 members out of which at least 15 are actively involved.

Future plans
Unlike full-timers like Sinha or Hazra, it might become difficult for the likes of Dasgupta to carry on with the work after they move out of the city. “We have not thought about posterity but juniors from our school are motivated to continue the good work,” says Dasgupta.
Sinha has big plans for the coming days. “We are thinking of going in schools and colleges to spread awareness. We have also come up with a purple ribbon campaign which is designed as a protest against all forms of violence,” says Sinha.
Elaan has put its heads together to draw up a draft of demands crafted for a legal reprimand for child sexual abuse. A book is also on the way to sensitise people to the problems of abused children.