This is the story of the main architect of Ranchi YMCA. On 1st June 1969, twenty-six-year-old slim looking Nityanand Naik landed at Ranchi railway station. J. D. Martin, Secretary of the National Council of YMCAs, received him and brought him to ‘Kitwin House’ near the “over the bridge”- supposed to be his home, office and YMCA programme centre. He was assigned to establish a YMCA from scratch. He knew neither Ranchi nor the future that awaited him.
Nityanand had hoped to be a lawyer but fate willed otherwise. To fulfil his mother’s wishes (she wanted him to be a priest), he decided to join Cuttack YMCA. When he was sent to the YMCA Training school in Bangalore, he met R. J. Solomon, its Director. The acquaintance gradually developed into friendship. When Solomon became the National General Secretary of the National Council of YMCAs, he saw the need to develop a YMCA at Ranchi. Being an important tribal town in Chotanagpur was now fast growing into an industrial township. He persuaded Nityanand to take up the job promising him to pay his salary and provide other assistance. YMCA Ranchi was promoted as a project of the National Council of YMCAs. Nityanand took it as “a call” and a challenge and came to Ranchi on contract for two years, keeping a lien on his job at Cuttack YMCA.
J. D. Martin, having introduced Nityanand to Ranchi, returned to Delhi. The YMCA and its programmes there were new, and it was not easy to raise funds. Undeterred by all odds, he moved about in the city on a bicycle with a ‘Jholi’ hung on his shoulder, visiting homes, establishing contacts and making members.
In 1964, some Christian leaders made efforts to establish a YMCA even before Nityanand came to Ranchi. Beginning sporadically, it never went beyond Bible studies for a few middle-class families who met in the home of one or the other member. A. k. Das, a high official from SAIL, was one of those early leaders who took a keen interest in organizing a YMCA in Ranchi. A couple of secretaries sent by the National Council had only brief stints. All that remained of these efforts was a small committee with Mr. Bajpai as its Chairman. Bishop Minz, Mr. George Mathew, Mr. E. D. walker, and a couple of others connected with those early efforts are still with the YMCA Ranchi.
It was not until Nityanand Naik put his hands to the plough that the YMCA Ranchi began to shape. Bishop Minz, one of the outstanding ethnic Christian leaders, encouraged Naik to devise programmes for tribal development and for building up the YMCA Ranchi. In two years, Naik had evolved an outline of his vision for the growth of the latter. In addition to its regular programmes, the YMCA identified the two needs, the development of the marginalized people of the Bastis (Colonies) in the city and of the tribals around Ranchi.
During his struggle in the early days of his career, he lost his 5yrs old son and 70yrs old mother, which made him more determined to fulfil his dreams. Dreams that one day, God willing, life in the slums of Ranchi would be transformed, and a majority of the slum dwellers would live a life of dignity. He also had a dream that one day the tribals of Maranghada will regain their power and live in dignity. He worked hard to fulfil his dream becomes a reality. His hard work paid off, and the first building was constructed in the year 1971 to provide Hostel service as a home away from home for 61 students and working men
He was pioneering to start a unique programme Urban Community Development Programme, among the poorest of the poor community in 13 slums of Ranchi city in 1971. To emphasized Children’s Education, Mid-day Lunch, Health & hygiene, Awareness building, Grihini (Housewives) training & programmes, Adult Education, Youth Forum, Construction of roads, People action group etc. to empower the oppressed community and give them a ray of hope without discriminating caste, color & creed. More than 4500 children got education till university by the YMCA and got jobs in government and private sectors and settled their families in a better way.
In 1974 he took a pioneering decision to adopt two Board members from other faith. This indeed was an unprecedented step in the history of the Indian YMCA movement. Though it was resisted by some of the leaders of the National Council of YMCAs of India, R. J. Solomon defended the action of YMCA Ranchi. YMCA Ranchi created history again when it took women on its Board in 1976 – another unprecedented and bold step.
He was the pioneer to start the Village Re-construction Programme Centre in Maranghada, 60 kilometres away from Ranchi city, in 1978 in the Eastern part of India. Programmes are being conducted in the 62 villages of Maranghada. It provides Children’s school, Sports & games, especially indigenous sports, Agricultural, Extension programme, Construction of Road, Self-help group, Awareness building, Health care, Food for work programme, Vocational training, Environment and Ecology, etc. empower the villagers for their dignity.
YMCA was the first in Ranchi to start Vocational Training and Non-formal Training in 1984 to provide need-based training to the unemployed educated youth and drop-out youth as part of the socio-economic development. It provides job opportunities with appropriate training. Thousands of trainees successfully got their jobs, and many started their business to support their families.
In 1984 he chartered Y’s Men Club of Ranchi to work with another wing of YMCA, especially for the marginalized and helpless community in the society. Later on, another Y’s Men Club Ranchi Capital was chartered in 2001.
He was a pioneer and instrumental in forming the All Churches Committee, Ranchi (ACCR) in the 90s to provide a platform for leaders of different denominations for unity, sharing, and organising joint programmes. YMCA is the Secretariat of ACCR.
Another unique programme in term of YMCA, he started Health Care Centre in the year 1992 right in the slum centre to provide Medical facilities for In-patient and Out-door medical care, Community Health Education, Pre-natal and Post-natal facilities, Family Planning and Child Care etc. to improve health issues of slum dwellers.
Another Vocational Training cum Programme Centre in Dhurwa was started in 1995 to provide Vocational Training, Sports & Games for the youths and other programmes etc. He also started an English Medium YMCA Public School in YMCA to provide world-class education to the oppressed community.
Nityanand Naik was a great leader and pioneer of social change and a person with “A Vision and A Mission”. He was an ordinary man with extraordinary ability. He was among the few who made it possible to show “Indian YMCA” as a Great Movement to the International Community. He was a dedicated and hardworking YMCA professional who, besides developing YMCA Ranchi, initiated forming YMCAs in Eastern and North East Regions and Nepal. He initiated and started the South Asia Fellowship Of YMCAs Secretaries (SAFOYS) with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. He was a unique role model, a teacher or ‘guru’, a friend and comrade in the struggle for the most vulnerable and marginalized people. He was a model to many young secretaries in those days. He graciously handed over the position to his successor at the right time, even though he was powerful and influential.
A servant leader Nityanand Naik, Founder General Secretary of YMCA Ranchi, have left us on 19th May 2021 at the age of 81, leaving behind a legacy.
By Chonhas Kujur
General Secretary, YMCA Ranchi, India