When 10-year-old Babu grows older, he will not have to look far for a role model. On Tuesday morning, his father, Ajit Kumar Guha, set an example of honesty not just for young Babu, but also for the entire police force.
Guha, a 45-year-old traffic home guard who feeds his family of six in Gobardanga with the Rs 104 he earns every working day, found a bag bursting with currency notes at the crossing of Rabindra Sarani and Sun Yat Sen Street. He ran straight to Lalbazar to deposit the money with his superiors.
The home guard finally handed over Rs 1.16 lakh — close to four years’ worth of his salary — to deputy commissioner of police (detective department) Soumen Mitra, who examined the documents in the bag and traced its owner.
Tej Pratap Singh, who runs a shoe-shop on Rabindra Sarani, soon turned up at Lalbazar to reclaim the bag he had given up as gone, after it had slipped off his scooter. Singh hugged Guha and insisted that he take Rs 500 as a symbol of his gratitude. “I could never have imagined that such honest people still exist in our society,” smiled Singh. And before the day was done, civil defence minister Srikumar Mukherjee had promised to “recommend Guha for the President’s award”.
Tuesday had begun like any other day for Guha, as he took up position at the crowded Rabindra Sarani crossing in the Hare Street police station area, around 8 am. “At around 9.30 am, I saw two youths picking up a big black bag. I stopped them and asked what was in it. They dropped the bag and fled,” Guha later told Soumen Mitra.
Guha opened the bag and found it stuffed with bundles of cash. Without wasting a moment, he rushed to the room of police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty. Guha was then sent to Mitra’s room. As news of Guha’s act spread, senior officers, led by Chakraborty, congratulated him. “I never thought the commissioner would shake my hand… I will never forget this,” Guha told colleagues.
Guha, who takes home a maximum of Rs 2,500 a month, spent all his savings on the cardiac surgery that his college-going daughter underwent last year. “I cannot fulfil their material needs, but I always tell my children to be honest human beings and try to set an example for them,” was what the heroic home guard told his bosses. Guha then left Lalbazar, boarded a local train from Sealdah station and headed home to Gobardanga, some 60 km from the city centre, in North 24-Parganas, where he struggles to make ends meet.