The Narendra Modi government is picking up where the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government left off.

Over a decade ago, the Vajpayee government had introduced a scheme that allegedly enabled the hiring of thousands of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh youths by the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, an autonomous body under the youth affairs ministry. Now, the Modi government is poised to replicate the scheme, albeit with a different look.

The new scheme, the draft of which is ready, is to be implemented by reorienting the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan. The Sangathan was set up in 1987-'88 to watch over the working of thousands of Nehru Yuva Kendras (or youth clubs) nationwide, which give “rural youth avenues to take part in the process of nation building”. The clubs do this by organising youth-centric programmes.

According to the Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Vinay Sahashrabudhe, who played a pivotal role in preparing the draft, the new scheme will provide one-year fellowships to youths in the 20-29 age group who’re interested in community and social work. “The selected fellows will be provided training and then asked to study the implementation of various welfare schemes of the centre in different regions,” said Sahashrabudhe. “Only the applicants recommended by an educational institution or an NGO will be considered for the fellowship.”

The Yuva Kendra Sangathan will be the nodal agency to implement the programme, explained Sahashrabudhe. It will be launched once the prime minister’s office decides on a name, added a source.

For the last few months, the Modi government has been trying to reorient the Yuva Kendra Sanghathan, so that it could take up the new job without any obstruction. In March, the government appointed three RSS leaders – Vishnu Dutt Sharma, Dilip Saikia and Shekhar Rao Perala – as its vice-chairmen. Soon after his appointment, Sharma declared, “The youth sees a hope in Modi. The focus of over 4,000 Yuva Kendras will be to take his schemes forward and create a cadre of disciplines youth passionate about the country.”

Quick flashback

The fellowship idea has left officials of the Sangathan concerned. They fear that the fellowship scheme will be used to induct RSS cadres into Yuva Kendras. They claim that these men will then act as the Sangh’s eyes on the ground and simultaneously work as Modi’s brand ambassadors at the grassroots. This is what had happened in the past too, the officials claimed.

In 1999, within a year of coming to power, the Vajpayee government had launched the National Reconstruction Corps under the aegis of the Sangathan. Under the National Reconstruction Corps, the Sangathan enrolled thousands of volunteers who were paid an honorarium of Rs 1,000 every month in over three hundred districts to work on programmes and projects of the various departments of the centre, state governments and voluntary organisations.

Since there were widespread allegations that most of these volunteers belonged to the RSS, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance scrapped the National Reconstruction Corps in 2005.

This time round the honorarium proposed for the fellows is much higher – Rs 30,000 per month. “Initially 300 youths will be given this fellowship,” said Sahashrabudhe. “Later, based on the experience, the scheme will be expanded in new areas of the country.”

Sahashrabudhe dismissed the officials’ fears. “It would be wrong to presume that the government wants to create its own set of eyes and ears at the grassroots," he said. "The scheme is aimed at motivating youths for community and social work. That is why it would be launched with the slogan – ek saal desh ke naam"  or one year dedicated to the nation.