Volunteering is a powerful means of engaging people in implementation of the development schemes and programmes. India has strong tradition of volunteering. The origin and development of volunteerism in the country has been shaped by its indigenous traditions and value systems rooted in the religion and cultural interactions throughout its history. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports runs two of the largest youth volunteer schemes namely National Service Scheme (NSS) established in 1969 and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) established in 1972 to promote volunteerism amongst youth in the country. While NYKS currently has 3.75 million youth enrolled through 167000 youth clubs across the country, NSS has 3.66 million volunteers enrolled through 391 universities, 16.278 colleges/technical institutions and 12.483 senior secondary schools. Further, the Bharat Scouts and Guides have of 5.6 million students enrolled as volunteers and National Cadet Corps (NCC) has over 1.3 million cadets. Swachhagrahis-the community volunteers under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA), Bharat Nirman Volunteers under the Ministry of Rural Development, School Volunteers under Vidyanjali, Aapda Mitra, Nyaya Mitra, Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs), Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) Volunteers among others make enormous contributions in the socio-economic development of the country.
Volunteers facilitate and support people’s engagement in planning, implementing and monitoring the developmental schemes of the government thereby fostering community ownership and leveraging innovative solutions from the ground up. Volunteerism, therefore, has much to contribute by way of harnessing the power and participation of individuals and communities to empower those who are furthest behind and address some of the exclusion that exists due to poverty, gender, disability and other causes of inequality. One potential way of leveraging the contribution of volunteers can be their integration into national development processes.