Emphasis on social service

AS YOU enter the two-room cubbyhole of an office of the Bharat Sewak Samaj (BSS) in the Government Omenthurar Estate, Anna Salai, you have to hop to avoid a puddle. The paint has peeled off the wall in unsightly flakes. The roof is shot through with wooden rafters. The concrete excrescence is still in the grip of the past. A few students are listening with their ears pinned back. No, they are not scribbling away at their notepads. For, there is no instructor droning on with his pedantic lecture. The students seem to enjoy what the speakers have to say.

These are student representatives of not one college, but many. They are here to sign up as members of the Madras Students Social Service League (MSSSL), a unit of the Bharat Sewak Samaj. Two prime movers of the MSSSL are expatiating on the organisation's ethos. These students, in turn, will spread the word about the organisation to their fellow students. The student force thus marshalled will take up projects for the benefit of society.

The membership fee is a nominal Rs. 10 per annum. In return, the student gets to go on field trips which will help open his eyes to the society around him, attend lectures conducted by the Centre for Contemporary Studies (CCS) every second Saturday, and have his funny bone tickled every third Sunday by members of the Humour Club.

That is not all. MSSSL conducts a three-month certificate course in Social Work and Management. Classes are conducted every Saturday between 3.30-5 p.m. Out of the12 classes the student has to attend a minimum of eight classes to receive the certificate. The course fee is Rs. 35.

"Through MSSSL programmes, we see that students alloy erudition with acumen. Erudition comes from books, and acumen from interaction with people. The programmes are aimed at making students well-rounded personalities, who can serve the community," says V. Raja Narayanan of MSSSL.

The BSS is among the multitude of Government initiatives taken up in the 1950s to shore up the social structure of a nascent nation. It took shape in 1952 with the blessings of Jawaharlal Nehru. Interestingly, MSSSL, which is today a unit of the BSS, predates the BSS as it saw the light of day in 1947. For details, call 25341677/ 26211768.