CCS Alumni: Ranjan Kumar Baruah

National Youth Award recipient and Founder of North-East Youth Foundation speaks about social entrepreneurship and role of youth leadership in North East states of India

RanjanQ1. Short introduction to who you are and your interests?

I was born and brought up in Guwahati. I did my Bachelor’s as well as Master’s degrees in political science. From a very young age, I was quite involved in student activities on topics that included topics such as governance, climate change, conflict and education. When I look at Assam and other North-Eastern states, I notice that information flow is missing. People have limited scope and opportunities. Matters in the North East are not very positive though they have improved of late. I have always wanted to travel and meet people and start a discussion as to how we can be a part of social transformation. My aim was to be a catalyst and fuel discussions among the youth in order to initiate a healthy debate. There is a need to create a vibrant civil society in the North East. It is important to spruce up a model where there are no defense forces, where there is an indirect role of market forces. People here are eager to get a government job because they want to be secure. Right from student days, I was involved with groups where we used to do career awareness programmes and develop networks in colleges. I noticed that student unions in colleges are highly political and they were platforms for political careers. They do not represent active interests of the society.

Q2. A little about your current professional life?

I am a social entrepreneur and am continuing to work on those activities which I have been involved in all these years. I run the North East Youth Foundation of which I am one of the founders. We conduct career awareness programmes and activities in colleges where we help initiate opportunities for college students. I have travelled all over Assam and the North East. I try to create dialogue on these issues in an open, amicable setting.

RanjanQ3. What are your interests? What motivates and keeps you going?

I dream of making this world a wonderful place to live. If people are saying negative things, I say positive things. And I can see a change. I see more people participation. I see people working faster and quicker. I see more entrepreneurship and greater growth of market forces. This motivates me to go on.

Q4. What are your wins and achievements?

Last year, I was a recipient of National Youth Award by the Ministry and Youth Affairs and Sports. It was given to me on Youth Day in Ludhiana for outstanding services to the community and for encouraging youth to do more community service.

Q5. What is one major life lesson from your personal journey?

From the beginning, I was decisive about social work. I did not want a government job. I was not good with academics. I decided that life would be my real classroom. I was thinking about my role – textbooks will not give me all the learning. I realised I need to travel and make more friends. There is a lot of diversity in Assam. All these activities give me satisfaction.

RanjanQ6. What program did you participate at CCS and how has the program helped you to grow in your personal and professional life?

CCS has helped me to think. We used to say “the population is growing, that is India’s problem!”, but CCS helped me in realise that we have to make better use of our existing resources. I participated in Liberty and Society Seminar (LSS) in 2003 (two days) and another program in Shillong. The first was an introductory seminar where I was not registered as a participant. The second, in 2004, there was a four-day residential program in Shillong which I helped to coordinate. I also attended the advanced LSS program in Panchgani (in December 2004). CCS has helped me to approach problems from a liberal perspective. It helped me to think of solutions in new, different ways. We have different responsibilities in society and I give credit to LSS for opening my mind and to think intellectually.

Q7. What is your advice to students on the career choices they make?

If you want to make a change, you can do it from any profession. You do not have to join an NGO or work in the social service sector. Do whatever you are doing passionately, honestly and ethically.

Interviewed by Vishnu Varma, Sub-Editor of NDTV Convergence | 06 September 2014