A 48-year-old social worker and educator has made it his life’s mission to educated children forced to stay in the underground fire-hit areas of Jharia. With a little help from his foreign friends.
Jharia resident Pinaki Roy, an alumnus of Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, teaches English and mathematics free of cost around 80 children of the underground fire-hit areas of the coal town at two places, Jharia and Gansadih (Kendua).
Talking to The Telegraph on Monday, Roy said that his social outfit Institution for National Amity gets funds of around 5,000 USD a year with which he takes the classes and distributes study material among the children.
On how he got started, he said it was pure chance. “I used to accompany, as a translator, a number of foreign journalists to the underground fire-hit areas. They’d come for special human interest stories of the Jharia underground fire and see the inhuman conditions in which people stay due to the apathy of policy makers. Most families pick coal illegally for a bare living. Their children help them. You see their blackened, rough hands and immediately know they don’t have a childhood. I used to think, how can I help?”
Roy said he discussed this with his wife Moushumi and then decided to start by teaching kids. “I felt I couldn’t solve their problems but I could at least teach the children, give them a headstart,” Roy said.
He started small in July 2018 with 10 kids at his home at Hetli Bandh locality in Jharia. “Obviously, it took time for people to trust me and my intentions. With constant effort, I expanded my educational and social venture, Coalfield Children Classes, at Gansadih area of Kendua too, some 8km from my house.”
“Two-hour classes are held thrice a week at his house and twice at Gansadih during afternoon hours. We also distribute copies, schoolbags, water bottles and geometry boxes among the children,” Roy said. Roy also discourages children from picking coal illegally and asks them to find other jobs if they must earn to feed their families. “Their poverty is numbing, doesn’t leave them with much choice, but I can tell they like my classes,” he said.
He thanked his regular donors, Dr Horst Schulmayer, a German doctor and social worker, and Edouard Douek, a French filmmaker. “I am really thankful to them for their consistency,” he said. “And my wife Moushumi, who’s been my pillar.” He added he never had a problem with receiving foreign funds. “As the amount is small, around Rs 3.5 lakh, bank authorities told me that’s not an issue. I’m told paperwork comes into play only when the foreign funds cross Rs 20 lakh per annum.”