Through street plays, students address vital social issues

Competition held at annual festival of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade

Visitors were greeted with unusual sight at the annual festival of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) on Sunday. A group of curious onlookers gathered around a group of youngsters wearing bright orange kurtas — an unusual sight in formal business schools.

They played drums and clapped hands to urge people to watch their street play. Minutes after they began their performance, the audience was engrossed in their stories. "Street plays have become a very powerful platform for raising awareness. The use of music and dance forms an integral part of such a performance," theatre actor, director and critic Manohar Khushalani said. He was a judge of the street play competition.

Youngsters raised concerns over a wide range of social issues — AIDS, human trafficking, child labour and drinking — through their street plays. "A street play is a very potent form of communication on social issues. Many corporate houses have tried to use street plays as a mode of advertisement for their products. Such attempts tend to fail because this kind of theatre works for raising awareness on issues like dowry, child labour, etc," Khushalani said.

The first performance, by students of IP University, raised the issues of prostitution, human trafficking and the problems faced by sex workers. "We used the data collected by NGOs and looked at a couple of cases. During our research, we noticed that a number of children had been rehabilitated. We found that there were many cases of prostitution. This trend was not limited to Delhi. It is a pan-India phenomenon and was also seen in countries like Nepal and Bangladesh," Arjuna, an IP University student, said.

Children of factory workers were part of the second performance. The play spoke about child labour and was based on case studies in Moradabad and Firozabad areas of Uttar Pradesh. Playwright Anuragh said, "We had approached an NGO, which works in the Badarpur area, which runs a learning centre for children. Since the play was primarily on child labour, we wanted kids to be part of the performance and received an enthusiastic response from them. They took some time to understand the issue. They participated in the play with the hope that they were doing something for children who were forced to work because of family or social pressures."

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