The Government of India organized over ten thousand student labor camps for the purposes of village development between 1954 and 1965. This camp movement functions as a key to the novel idealizations of youth in the postcolonial world and the shifting development agendas of independent India. The image of the toiling and vigorous camper committed to serving the newly created nation-state came to be constructed as India's model citizen-to-be, and this figure embodies the emergent forms of postcolonial nationalist politics and ideologies of the 1950s and 1960s. This youthful labor force was depicted in the developmentalist imagination of India as literally building and metaphorically embodying the nation-state and its ideologies of physical fitness, secularism, anti-casteism, and national discipline. This article will argue that camp life negotiated a hierarchy of citizens that made the educated youth the agent of development and the villager the object of development. The running of these camps by volunteer movements such as the National Cadet Corps, the Bharat Scouts and Guides, and the Bharat Sevak Samaj brings to light how the developmental apparatus in India worked or did not work in practice for the students and the poorer classes.

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