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Twenty-five-year- old Katuri Kodanda Pani from the village of Ipurupalem in Andhra Pradesh who is preparing for the civil service exams, won the first prize in the nation-wide contest, titled Mera India Bridge the Gap. The contest asked young people in the 18 to 35 year age group to think of ideas, which could help India, meet its commitment on millennium development goals (MDGs).

Nupur Tiwari from the G.B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology at Pantnagar, Uttrakhand won the second prize, while the Third Prize was awarded to Bharat Bhatti of St Stephen’s College, Delhi. The awards were presented by young Parliamentarian Sandeep Dikshit and eminent journalist and documentary film maker, Nupur Basu at a function titled “Celebrating Youth” in the Capital recently.

Over 500 students and young professionals from all over the country participated in the contest which called for ways on how India could eradicate poverty and hunger, get children into schools, improve the environment, provide health care, and remove gender disparities.

The participants want a bigger role for youth in the nation-building process. Kodanda Pani suggested that MDG-Youth Councils be set up at national, state and district levels and the youth be involved in reaching out to urban and rural poor with information, and help them in utilizing government programmes and services. The youth councils should do a social audit for all government schemes.

Another award winner, S Arul Dorai from the Madurai Institute of Social Sciences proposed that each college should have a team of 20 to 30 persons who are involved in rural upliftment work. While Anjana Agarwal and Shruti Vishwanathan, from the National Law School of India, Bangalore called for the addition of six months to all undergraduate courses during which the students could work towards the goals depending on what discipline of study they belong to and what training they have received.

Corruption was an area the young pinpointed that was stalling India from achieving the goals. Ramya Pottireddi and Mithun Allu from Hyderabad, now living in Boston proposed that corruption should leave us as gradually as it has seeped into our lives. They suggested that a “No Bribes Day” be observed gradually leading to a “No Bribes Week” and then a “No Bribes Fortnight”. The effect that we want to see would be possible when we bring in the “No Bribes Month”, the team said. “ The programme should be so well advertised that any individual taking a bribe would never pass for a gentleman again. Once this happens, the future India would step up,” the young professionals added.

The award winners come from different parts of the country and are studying in institutions like the IITs, Law and Management schools in the metros, as well as from colleges in smaller cities like Ajmer and Aligarh. A few are young professionals.

The competition was organised by Unnati features and Women’s Feature Service and was supported by the United Nations Millennium Campaign.

To read the award winning entries log on to http://meraindiamdgsbridgethegap.blogspot.com