Is an Indian rural fellowship programme initiated, funded and managed by the State Bank of India (SBI) in partnership with reputed NGOs. It provides a framework for India's bright young minds to join hands with rural communities, empathies with their struggles and connect with their aspirations. The selected fellows work with experienced NGOs on challenging grass root development projects. The fellowship is an initiative to sensitize & provide avenues for the more privileged sections to become aware of ground realities and contribute through their personal efforts towards building strong cohesive communities; a pre-requisite for a stable socio-political environment, which in turn would lead to economic regeneration. The focus of the fellowship has been in generating interest of the educated youth towards the social sector and in incubating the spirit of social entrepreneurship. The SBI Youth for India Fellowship was launched on 1 March 2011, in partnership with three reputed NGOs: M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation, BAIF Development Research Foundation and Seva Mandir. All the three NGOs have more than two decades of experience in the development sector.
Over 55% of the Indian population is below the age of 25 indicating the extent of energy, enthusiasm and idealism that can be harnessed. The mainstream career trend of young university pass outs looking for climbing up the corporate ladder fast or to go abroad has alienated the youth from participating in nation building activities. As a result, their value system has made them materialistic in their outlook and they feel helpless & frustrated about their inability to act as change agents in society & find a higher purpose for their lives.
On the other hand, economic liberalization & the growth in GDP have apparently not touched 70% of the Indian population. The declining agricultural productivity, falling employment opportunities in agricultural and non-farm sectors, poor healthcare services and inability to access quality elementary and higher education has enhanced poverty and distress amongst one third of the rural population. To bridge the widening urban-rural divide and to organize & galvanize the youth, particularly the urban educated youth, so that they voluntarily get involved in various developmental projects in rural areas, requires a well-structured platform like Peace Corps or AmeriCorps to enable volunteers to spend a brief period, doing development work with underprivileged sections of society before taking up their chosen profession.
In India, there are several NGOs engaged in development work in rural areas but the average youth cannot access the avenues of volunteer work without long term commitment for lack of any organized, short-term programme for recruiting volunteers at the national level. The SBI Youth for India program fills in this gap — the fellows can contribute to social work through a sabbatical experience and get back into the mainstream, if they choose to.
• Providing educated Indian youth with an opportunity to touch lives and create positive change at the grass root level in rural India.
• Providing NGOs working on development projects in rural India with educated manpower whose skill sets can be used to catalyze rural development.
• Promoting a forum for the Programme alumni to share ideas and contribute to rural development throughout their professional life.