Fought poverty to achieve their dream, now help­ing oth­ers do so

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - NAMITA BAJPAI

RAVI Shankar, 29, and Roshan Lal, 30, be­long to dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies but share iden­ti­cal sto­ries. Both spent their child­hood in ab­ject poverty. Their par­ents worked as bonded labour­ers, of­ten un­able to feed all mem­bers of their fam­i­lies.

That was, how­ever, not un­usual for the Kol com­mu­nity, to which the duo be­longed. Kol trib­als his­tor­i­cally in­habit the back­ward re­gions of Ko­raon and Meja in Ut­tar Pradesh’s Al­la­habad dis­trict. But poverty has pushed many Kols to the bad­lands of Chi­trakoot to turn da­coits.

In Ravi and Roshan’s case, hunger was the only is­sue be­fore their par­ents, who would toil from dawn to dusk to earn a pal­try sum of `300 a day.

De­spite liv­ing un­der such try­ing cir­cum­stances, Ravi and Roshan dared to dream big. They as­pired not only to a life in which their fam­i­lies would be free of hunger, but also to do some­thing for their com­mu­nity. It was not easy, but the two held on to their goal, fi­nally grad­u­at­ing as lawyers.

“My fa­ther knew my pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion, and de­spite all hard­ships, sent me to school,” says Ravi, a na­tive of Dhoos vil­lage of Ko­raon. His mother, an asthma pa­tient, worked in a quarry near the vil­lage. “There was no money for her treat­ment. Of­ten, we went to bed hun­gry,” he re­calls. Some­how he com­pleted his pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion and got ad­mis­sion at a sec­ondary school.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing school, Ravi went to Nehru Gram Bharti Univer­sity, Al­la­habad, with the help of Prof Su­nit Singh of GB Pant So­cial Sci­ence In­sti­tute, whom he met at a lo­cal NGO.

Now a proud lawyer, Ravi prac­tises at Ko­raon tehsil.

Roshan, Ravi’s batch mate, is from Bis­ari vil­lage in Meja. His par­ents used to work as labour­ers in the fields of rich farm­ers. His school was 15 km away and he had to walk all the way, ev­ery day.

“I had seen enough hunger and poverty. My fa­ther had nine mouths to feed,” says Roshan, adding his sib­lings were not as lucky as him as they were not sent to school.

“Des­tiny goes hand-in-hand with de­ter­mi­na­tion. The two young­sters are an in­spi­ra­tion and their ef­forts will go a long way in uplifting their com­mu­nity,” says Prof Su­nit Singh.

I used to go fish­ing to feed my fam­ily be­fore go­ing to school... To get to school, I had to walk 8 km ev­ery day

Ravi Shankar

Lawyers Ravi Shankar (L) and Roshan Lal (R) at Ko­raon tehsil

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