A bank to provide toys to children

Initiative to improve the happiness index

A bank to provide toys to children
A room stuffed with dolls, toy guns, puzzles, teddy bears, cars and bikes reminds of some illustrations in Phantom Comics. But it has actually happened in Ajmer in Rajasthan, thanks to an initiative by the government to increase the happiness index. With the launch of a toy bank at Ajmer, the district administration is playing the role of Santa Claus. Toys donated by people find their way to children, who have no access to them. 

Six-year-old Satveer and two-and-a-half-year-old Roshini are inmates of Bal Garh and newly arrived toys, especially pink and white-coloured cycle, are keeping them busy all the time. Bal Garh Superintendent Narayani Verma says, “The toys are helping differently abled children staying here.” She pointed out that the UN High Commission for Human Rights has recognised playing as a right of every child looking at its importance in optimal child development. Toys are vital tools that help foster the mental, physical, emotional and social development of children.

The toys are organised, repaired and repacked wherever required at the Ajmer toy bank. More than 40,000 toys have been distributed to 1,946 anganwadi centres and around 11,000 have been given to  primary schools, children homes, children's hospitals and community centres across the district.

Toy bank is a result of  Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje's  vision of “Happy Rajasthan” and “Khushali Index” presented at the collectors' conference in May 2016. She directed that government schemes and programmes should be executed in a compassionate manner. Some notable initiatives taken by district collectors in a span of three months include kitchen garden in Nagaur, free slippers to students in government schools (Jalore), book bank (Hanumangarh) and toy bank, book container and cloth bank in Ajmer.

Toy banks in Ajmer and Nagaur were inaugurated by the Chief Minister and she donated 101 toys on the occasion.

Facebook page, Twitter handle, e-mail address, WhatsApp group, mobile app and web-based dash board have been created to ensure complete transparency, credibility and efficiency. Nationalised banks, reputable convents in Ajmer, city clubs and many social organisations too have pitched in to make the initiative a success.    
First initiative

Ajmer District Collector Gaurav Goyal, who has conceptualised this initiative, told Deccan Herald, “toy banks have been created by many non-governmental organisations in some districts, providing happiness to both donors and receivers. However, most of them were either individual or run by organisations. This is the first initiative by a government. The campaign has gone viral on social media and tremendous support is coming from all quarters with more than 80,000 toys reaching us in two months from very diverse donor groups.”
 
Social activist Kirti Pathak, who is actively looking after toy collection, said, “Within two months, the district administration, teachers, doctors and others have contributed to the bank. It has been joint hardwork of the Education Department and the Social Welfare Department.

UCO Bank has become our banking partner and is setting up toy collection centres in its 50 branches in the district. Apart from the employees of UCO and HDFC banks, school and colleges such as Sophia College and Mayo College have supported the initiatives and collected toys from their students.” Banks have received toys ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 5,000 and they include educational toys and learning games for toddlers and children, dolls, musical instruments, Santa Claus, kitchen set and doctor sets.

According to child psychologist Avina Kalla, “Toys play an important part in the upbringing of a child, especially when he has not many friends around. Some children play with toys while others find a toy in any form present around them. Toys that mainly enhance development in a child should be engaging ones in which a child can put in his effort. Mental development of a child also gets affected by the type of toys he plays. It's often seen a hyperactive child will play with bright-coloured toys or those which produce sound and those who are calm will prefer subtle ones.”
   
Children’s book writers too believe that till the age of 12 a child needs to be in the company of good books and good toys. The editor of children's science monthly magazine Chakmak Sushil Shukla says, “It's important to leave a child free and let him decide his own 'toy'. But at the same time without toys the infant years of a child will be dull. Usually those toys which are breakable are also good. Toys not only develop their brain but also provide them physical exercise. Otherwise television and laptops make them lazy. Wooden toys and old games and story-telling sessions are mandatory for a child.”

The Ajmer district administration has also set up “kapda bank” and “book bank”. The District Collector said, “After inauguration on August 15, Ajmer's kapda bank has received more than 5,000 new clothes, including dresses for primary schoolchildren, sarees, shawls and blankets. Two verticals have been made for the kapda bank. First, new clothes or old clothes in usable condition are washed and ironed. Old and torn out clothes are used for making carry bags.”

Competitive exam books

Another effort to increase the happiness index is the book bank for underprivileged children which has college and competitive exam books. It also has fiction and non-fiction books. It has received more than 2,000 books in the first 10 days since its launch.

For free and timely circulation of books in different parts of the city and nearby villages an abandoned truck container has been transformed into a library, the first of its kind in the state and probably, in the country. Residents of Ajmer are members of this mobile library. With glass panels and shelves it can store neatly categorised 2,000 books.

The vehicle carries 10 chairs and they are placed in locations convenient for readers. For instant reading, the mobile library has five Kindles, loaded with more than 1,000 books. It also has internet, a librarian with laptop and book bank-linked-library management system.

The Ajmer Municipal Corporation is the nodal agency for running this mobile library. Gandhi Bhawan Public Library is the base library for it and one can get a book issued by producing Bhamashah card number or mobile phone number. The reader can read the book and return it the same day or next week or at Gandhi Bhawan Public Library.
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