Libraries of Opportunities in Bihar
There are community libraries functioning in 45 blocks in small towns and villages in Bihar. Jeevika, an initiative of the state government to alleviate poverty and enhance the quality of life amongst the rural population, hopes to have libraries up and running in 100 blocks across 32 districts in the state.
Rahul Jha 10 April 2023 2:25 PM GMT
A library in Singheshwar in Madhepura district in Bihar is slowly but surely transforming the lives of people in the small town. “I had only seen the word ‘library’ in books. I never thought I would ever visit a library,” Sweety Kumari, who lives there, told Gaon Connection.
The Singheshwar library provides a comfortable space where people can read newspapers, magazines and books. There are also facilities for online classes for students who may not have such conveniences at their homes. “It is a dream come true for small town inhabitants like us,” Sweety said.
The community library in Singheshwar that Sweety Kumar is so proud of was launched by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on February 10 this year. It was set up by the state government under Jeevika, a livelihoods project through the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), an autonomous body under the Department of Rural Development.
At least 100 such community libraries have opened at the block level in 32 districts across the state.
“Libraries and career development centres have been set up in about 45 blocks. The target is to have them up and running in 100 blocks across the 32 districts in Bihar. They are being set up in both private as well as government buildings,” Suman Kumar, who works with Jeevika in Kishanganj, told Gaon Connection.
“The libraries are not just for the purpose of studies, but they also provide the right environment for young people to meet, exchange ideas and develop them further,” Suman Kumar said. “Jeevika is also striving to provide career guidance and help to the youth at the cluster level, especially the girls, who are looking to find good jobs,” he added.
In February 2023, Jeevika launched the community library and career development centre programme. At the same time the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gramin Kaushal Yojana of Government of India has also been running with the help of Jeevika in Bihar. This scheme was started by the Central Government in September 2014. This scheme, which is one of the initiatives of the Ministry of Rural Development, seeks to promote rural livelihoods by imparting skills to young people and helping them find jobs.
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Community libraries and skill development centres have come up in several districts.
Some centres that are already functioning are at Garhi Bishnupur panchayat in Sadar Block, Lakhisarai district; Phulwaria village in Barhat Block in Jamui district; Kohra panchayat in Makhdumpur Block in Jehanabad district, and so on.
One crore thirty lakh women in the state are associated with Jeevika, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had tweeted on February 23.
Of these, many of them, called Vidya Didi, will work in these libraries supporting the youth in their quest for a career.
According to Jeevika officials, the Vidya Didis will get paid Rs 6,000 a month. They will run the libraries that will offer textbooks and other learning materials to students of classes 6 to 12.
Giving wings to dreams
“Opening the libraries has given wings to our dreams. There are nine members of my family who live out of three rooms and studying becomes very difficult,” Sapna, a 14-year-old middle school student, who lives in Suryapura in Madhepura district, told Gaon Connection. Sapna’s father is a labourer who is working in Punjab.
Many young students, more so the girls, are unable to study in peace at home and the library provides them the right and safe environment to do so, Rahul Yadav, who runs a library in Supaul, pointed out. “The libraries that have been started thanks to Jeevika, in the smaller towns and villages in the state are important milestones in the development of those places,” Rahul Yadav, said.
“The projectors in some of the libraries are also of great help to the users of the library in pursuing their studies. Most importantly, these libraries are fostering a culture of reading in these remote areas,” Yadav said.
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Learning and livelihoods
“With the help of Jeevika, we have opened up a library and career development centre at Goreakothi village, in Siwan district,” Rakesh Kumar, district programme co-ordinator of Siwan, told Gaon Connection. Along with the books and journals there is space for qualitative and state-of-the-art digital learning. “We are trying to create a learning environment for the young people,” Rakesh Kumar said.
Anjan Kumari who lives in Patna, the state’s capital, received training in housekeeping at the skill development centre for three months.
“My father works in a private company and my parents did not have the means to let me pursue my studies,” she told Gaon Connection. When a friend told her about Jeevika’s initiative, she signed up for housekeeping training. Anjan Kumari has since worked in several big hotels in housekeeping. And, she has taken a break in order to study further.
“You are well aware of the unemployment crisis in the state. And incomes in rural areas are very frugal. But the government is trying its best to impart training that will enable the youth to find suitable employment,” an official associated with Jeevika told Gaon Connection.
So far, about three million young people in the state have benefitted from Jeevika’s Skill Development and Employment programme. Electrical, electronics, health care, etc., are some of the areas in which the training has been given.
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"The Jeevika initiative has become a source of women’s votes for the chief minister,” Sanjay Singh, a writer with Rajkamal Publications in Patna, told Gaon Connection. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has had nothing but high praise for the Jeevika programmes, which have brought about considerable change in the lives of the women. And, the libraries have strengthened the foundations of education in rural areas too, Sanjay Singh said.
“Jeevika is now associated with several issues, from employment opportunities for the youth and anti-alcohol drives in villages to rural livelihoods and education,” Sanjay Singh said, but he also said that lack of awareness, illiteracy and rampant corruption were proving to be challenges in the proper implementation of Jeevika Programmes.