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For future, charity and chagrin
Sacrifice: food and wages to build college

Bhabta (Murshidabad), Nov. 22: Ice-cream seller Tarif Hossain and his family sacrificed a night’s meal to donate a day’s earnings to buy land for a proposed government college in Murshidabad’s Bhabta.

Tarif, who has never gone to school, and the other Bhabta residents, rich and poor, pooled Rs 41 lakh to buy land for the institution, which will be Murshidabad’s first government college.

The villagers then bought the 6.5 acres from local residents and handed it to the district administration last week.

After the state government chose Bhabta as one of the venues for the four colleges it plans to set up in Muslim-dominated areas of the state before next year’s Assembly elections, the villagers met in August to discuss how to arrange for land for the project.

According to rules, the residents of an area where a government college would be set up have to arrange for the land.

Tarif was one of the 3,000 villagers who attended the meeting. “The village elders told us a lot of land was required for the college and requested all of us to contribute money,” the 38-year-old said.

Tarif added, sitting in front of his mud-walled house: “I earn only around Rs 100 a day. But something inside me told me that I should contribute. I am proud that I have contributed in my own small way to set up the college.”

One evening a fortnight ago, the ice-cream seller handed Rs 100, his earnings that day, to the local club that was collecting money for the college land.

That night, Tarif, his wife, two sons and two daughters went without food. “I knew my family and I would have forego a night’s meal if I gave away the money. Nevertheless, we felt happy as we had donated for a noble cause,” Tarif said.

Tarif’s sons study in Class VII at a madarsa while his daughters are in Class IV.

Mohsin Sheikh, 50, a farm labourer, also contributed Rs 100.

“I could not continue with my studies after Class III because of poverty. I had to drop out and help my father in the fields,” Mohsin said. “I contributed a day’s earnings because I want to ensure that my children receive higher education.”

Mohsin’s daughter studies in Class IX while his son is in Class VII.

Mainul Haque, a jute mill labourer, too has donated Rs 100. His wife Sukron Bibi dreams that the couple’s daughter, a Class VII student, will one day study at the college. “We are happy that the college is coming up. This will help encourage the children of our village to pursue higher education,” said Sukron, a Class IV dropout.

Nazneen Bewa, 40, a widow who prepares tea for teachers at the local madarsa, has donated a month’s earnings for the college.

The affluent farmers and traders of the village have also contributed generously.

Shirin Begum, the wife of a rich hardware trader, has sold off jewellery worth Rs 10 lakh and donated the entire amount to the local club to buy the land, near NH34 that runs along the village.

“The state government has granted Rs 10 crore to set up the college,” said Parwez Ahmed Siddiqui, the district magistrate. “The chief minister will lay the foundation for the college soon.”

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