By: VIKAS DOGRA
Some graffiti, a few numbers and words that are carelessly scribbled on the walls of this small room at the Sadar Police Station in Shimla, shows that they were here. The room that resounded with voices of destitute children learning their daily lessons of life from none other than “Police Uncle” turned teachers and from others now wears a deserted look. ‘Vikalp’—a school for rag pickers and kids of laborers shut down nearly a month ago, after the voluntary teachers provided by an NGO left for better paid jobs.
Now the policemen posted here who can only spare time to teach on holidays are in a fix about taking the idea ahead. Help had poured in from all corners when last year Station House Officer (SHO) at Sadar, Brijesh Sood ventured out with the idea of setting up this day time “fun-school” for children who would never go to one, because they can not afford it. Shopkeepers of Lower Bazaar had pooled resources for stationery items and an NGO in Sanjauli shouldered the responsibility of providing a teacher for the social cause. While the first ones are still ready it help, the latter have withdrawn their support.
Everyday, the policemen used to collect these kids from different places in the town and bring them here. And the number used to vary from 15 to 20. Most of these kids spend their time rag picking, selling polythene bags in the local market or some odd jobs on the way side dhabas. But all attended this special school very enthusiastically. Brijesh Sood recalls that as they had a first hand experience of dealing with the clients they were good at mathematical calculations. He believes that some polishing would definitely have had helped them.
Last year the media had reported how these kids were introduced to the concept of “Children Day” (November 14). One remembers, 13 year Ashok (who attended this school), his day starts with a hunt for gunnysacks, the later part is spent amidst heaps of garbage and ends under a shabby shed below the bus stand. Here he burns the mid night oil to sort out different items from the day’s collection. “Subbah jaldi uthkar maal bechna padta hai nahin to aacha bhaav nahin milta“, he used to say. He and his friends had a ball last Children Day, as they were treated to choicest sweets, food and a dance party.
Even though Brijesh Sood is trying hard to bring them back to a school and also dedicating his own time for them, he says, “the school desperately needs a teacher. A person who can at least dedicate to hours during the day time would also suffice, as these kids can also spare this much time only.”
They may not become littermates, but Sood believes some moral science lessons at school can prevent them from becoming criminals.
Can we bring back these kids to their school before this Children’s Day?