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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Even as the Odisha government inaugurated the birth of Biju Yuva Vahini in a grand way just 3-years ago, the home-truth to the fore now is the pet child of the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government has become the victim of U-5 child mortality in the State recently.

The Youth and Sports Services Minister Tusharkanti Behera replying to a question in the State Assembly recently disclosed that grants for the Biju Yuva Vahini (BYV) sub-scheme have been discontinued from the financial year of 2021-22.

While the Minister attributed the termination of the scheme to fund constraints due to coronavirus pandemic, the moot point here is: has the government's pet scheme BYV outlived its utility?

Because, as per budget watchers, in case of fund constraints for a successful scheme, the size of allocation may stand curtailed but the scheme would never get rescinded.

Did the much-vaunted BYV prove a liability for the Odisha government?

IS BYV A FAILURE?

The Biju Yuva Vahini (BYV) has been launched as the sub-scheme under the scheme Biju Yuva Sashaktikaran Yojana in 2017. The sub-scheme turned into a reality in the first quarter of 2018.

Though launched with much fanfare and resources to support, the BYV met with a lukewarm response. The embarrassed State government had to extend the enrolment timeline many times.

Even, the State Youth Welfare Board (SYWB) in October 2018 sent a letter to the collectors directing them to keep the online registration of BYV open till the target of 4 lakh enrolment was met.

Significantly, the registration of BYV volunteers started in November 2017 and the timeline had then been extended as many as 4-times till February 2018. But the target couldn't be mobilised even by October 2018.

Moreover, the same letter had mentioned that the response of female youths to the BYV had been very poor.

The letter said, "As of now, the total registered volunteers totalled 2.598 lakh but women volunteers stood at a mere 35,017. Therefore, it asked the Collectors to launch an exclusive registration facility for female volunteers as the target had been to give 33 per cent representation to women in the BYV."

THE NUMBER CHALLENGE

In October 2018, the number of registered volunteers in BYV stood at 2.598 lakh. The count in 2020 stood at 2.64 lakh. Despite the remaining 3-years in force, along with the pumping of fund into the scheme to the tune of a whopping Rs 450 crore, the State government could not meet the number challenge of 4-lakh.

This clearly shows how the much-touted BYV had little resonance among the youth populace in the State, when the objective of the Odisha government had then been to enlist the support of as many youths as it could to surmount the 2019 Modi challenge (elections held in the year 2019).

IS BYV A VALUE FOR MONEY SCHEME?

In the inception year (2018-19), the State government allocated a massive Rs 192 crore. Post the 2019 general election, the fund allocation was slashed to Rs 129 crore and in the year 2020-21, the amount provisioned totalled Rs 109 crore. During the three-years of existence, the sub-scheme saw a total allocation of Rs 450 crore.

In contrast, the revenue disbursement for the Sports and Youth Development for the year 2018-19 stood at Rs 246 crore. In the year 2019-20, the revenue disbursements for the department stood slashed to Rs 194 crore. The revenue disbursements further cut down to Rs 172 crore in 2020-21.

In the first phase of the launch, the State Youth Welfare Board released Rs 30,000 per BYV, whereby Rs 15,000 was earmarked for social activities and another Rs 15,000 for organising sports activities at the gram panchayat or urban local body levels.

As per data available with the State Youth Welfare Department, for organising sports activities a sum of Rs 11 crore had been spent.

RTI GLARE

As per RTI activist Pradip Pradhan, the Youth and Sports Department didn't provide any data showing any asset creation - social or physical - under BYV.

"The Department didn't provide district-wise expenditure under the scheme. Though over Rs 1crore was spent on Singapore tour, it refuses to provide the address of the volunteers who had been part of the tour."

BYV BLOOPER

While the BYV outcome is yet to be documented, the big howler for the State government had been dealt with by a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources Department (HRD) last year.

The report said, "Only 27.11 per cent of government schools in Odisha have playgrounds."

In contrast, the BYV took a lion share of the fund allocation for amplifying sports activities which never found ground.

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