The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Small farmer, Big Benefactor

Khargram, June 1: Mahadeb Mondal dropped out of school in Class II to become a cowherd because in a poor family it was time to start earning.

A generation later, the farm labourer, now 70 years old, had to watch his four sons do the same after primary school for the reason that had dragged him out of the classroom too.

“Now I am old and infirm and regret I could not study or afford my sons’ education. I wish I could put the clock back,” Mondal (in picture) said.

It was not just regret, though, he would be filled with pity whenever he watched the children of his Chandkhali village in Murshidabad’s Khargram, about 240 km from Calcutta, study in the sole primary school there operating from under a temporary shade by the roadside.

“I wanted to do something for them (the children). So I decided to give half of my land,” Mondal said.

Early last month, he approached Sunil Konai, fellow villager and panchayat pradhan, with the offer to donate five of his 10 cottahs for a school that had to be shut whenever it rained.

On May 21, the paper work was completed and the land was handed over to the panchayat that will construct the building.

Mondal will be grateful simply “to see the children study in a school building erected on my land”.

On the other half of the land, he will continue to live with his 65-year-old wife Sabitri in a thatched hut.

Konai said the land gifted by Mondal would be worth about Rs 1 lakh, a sum hard to fathom for someone earning Rs 40 a day when he can work — and most of the time, Mondal is too sick.

Mondal’s sons, all daily labourers, did not stop their father. “After all, the land belongs to him,” said eldest son Ramaprasad.

Anjali Chatterjee, headmistress of the school, said: “There are so many people with land in the village, but no one came forward in the past eight years to give land.”

Maybe, they didn’t get the education Mondal acquired without going to school.

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