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Eastern Interest kickstarted the inaugural session of its flagship initiative, Insta Dialogue, with Mr. Nishant Vashisth hosted by Nithya Jacob. Mr. Vashisth is a former Gandhi fellow and a program leader at Piramal Foundation. Addressing the topic of the dialogue, “Gandhi Fellowship and its Role to Empower Rural India” Mr. Vashisth shared inspiring and informative insights through his own experience.

The Gandhi Fellowship started in 2008 with just 10 fellows. Since then, it has expanded to a community of its own, and is currently hosting its 14th Batch of fellows. Belonging to the 10th Batch (2017-19), Mr. Vashisth began his fellowship with the School Leadership Development Program where each fellow was assigned five schools to work on various tasks such as the setting up of libraries, Bal Sansads, and initiating innovative ideas with school head masters and principals. He stressed on how the program provided a common platform for the youth to collaborate. Along with the practical application of skills, it instilled an understanding of the ground reality.

One of the most interesting aspects of fellowship is the community immersion which takes place for about three months. Fellows go to the community they are assigned and have to find free accommodation among the community itself, without a cellphone nor a purse. This is done, he says, in order to empathise and connect with people of the village. While sharing his own story, he reiterated on how each fellow had their own experience that turned out to be great memories in the future.

At present, Mr. Vashisth is involved with the District Transformation Program, initiated in conjunction with NITI Aayog. His work involves collaborating with district authorities to work towards NITI Aayog indicators in aspirational districts such as learning outcomes, transition rate (primary to secondary/higher secondary education), girls and adult education, infrastructure, etc. He highlighted some challenges in the form of generating mutual understanding, continuing higher education after compulsory education (especially among girls), and social security. Additionally, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, NITI Aayog launched a new initiative – Surakshit Hum, Surakshit Tum Abhiyan to address pandemic-related issues.

The Gandhi Fellowship is youth-led and provides the best opportunity for the youth to learn and contribute to the development of the nation, in general and the rural society, in particular.

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