The PUKAR Youth Fellowship Programme has evolved from several prior steps beginning with the PUKAR Neighborhood Project, that was incubated at Wilson College and discussed in the Mumbai Pedagogy Group, an informal group of like minded thinkers. At Wilson College, the project was organized conceptually around the concept that “documentation constitutes an intervention” in the life of a city. Students were invited to document aspects of their neighbourhood. At PUKAR, the Neighbourhood Project has been expanded and reconceptualized to give enriched content to the techniques of documentation. Intimate portraits of neighbourhoods have been generated by student as well as civic groups including unlettered young people who are outside the formal education system.
In its first PUKAR incarnation the ideals of the Neighbourhood Project were offered to Marathi speaking youth in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region through the youth initiative “Tarunaee” of the Marathi Public Sphere Project of PUKAR.
“Tarunaee” – the Marathi word stands for youth and signifies the innovative energy of youth. The project was aimed at engaging the youth in self and locality documentation to articulate their concerns about urban life. It explored the process of research and documentation as tools for pedagogy and social intervention.
The participants were Marathi speaking youth associated with various organizations educational, government and non-government. They represented diverse socio-economic and educational strata and had no previous experience. They worked in groups on themes relevant to their experiences. The broad themes were environment, language, migration, sexuality and globalization.
For their documentation, the participants made innovative use of various media such as photography, songs, interviews, paintings and poems. To view these documentations
The Neighbourhood Project also served as the basis for a project in the Mumbai neighbourhood of Khotachiwadi. The present PUKAR Youth Fellowship Programme represents a conceptual shift in this project on youth and knowledge production. Though the neighborhood may or may not be the site of documentation, the focus now is on making high end techniques and methodologies of research available for investigation and application by young people (who may or may not be college students) in groups of ten and under the mentorship of a guide
. Together they establish a research problem of their choosing which is related to Mumbai civic life. Together they then pursue their plan of research
the duration of one year. They are given training in research techniques such as mapping, census taking, interviewing and archival methods, which can be deployed to establish evidence for an argument they can make from their research.
Over five years, more than eighteen hundred Mumbai youth have graduated through the Youth Fellowship Programme. With expanded support, the programme could grow to reach a far greater number of Mumbai youth. With the tools to understand how to shape a research idea, these young Mumbai citizens will go out into the world with the capacity for gathering evidence and using that evidence to make arguments about their future and become problem solvers for the future of their city.