On Sunday morning, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about people encouraging the spread of education and knowledge in society in his Mann ki Baat address and talked about Chandigarh’s Sandeep Kumar Badsra apart from four more such examples, 28-year-old Badsra was busy in distributing free books and stationery from his mobile library at Bapu Dham Colony in Sector 26, Chandigarh. Badsra, who had started collecting old books and stationery from door to door in Chandigarh and by his own money, has so far distributed more than 18,000 books to more than 8,000 students in the Tricity. He listened to the PM’s address in the evening and sounded emotional on his name being mentioned by the PM, who also talked about Usha Dubey of MP, Meena Gurung and Devang Hosai of Arunachal Pradesh, and two NGOs from Gujarat.
“I was busy in distributing books at Bapu Dham today. That is why I did not listen to the Mann ki Baat address in the morning. When I got to know about PM mentioning my work, it was an emotional moment for me. When the country’s PM appreciates your work, then it means that you are doing a good job and going in the right direction. I have always believed that education is a medium which can change any person and society. Ttoday’s mention by the PM will only motivate us to do more for society,” said Badsra while talking to The Indian Express.
Hailing from Dhani Mahu village in Bhiwani district of Haryana, Badsra did his graduation from Sri Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College, Chandigarh, before doing his Junior Basic Training (JBT) from Swami Devi Dayal College of Education, Panchkula. It was during his six-month JBT training at Dadam village in Bhiwani district in 2016 that Badsra got encouraged to provide books to the poor children. After his return to Chandigarh where his family resides, the young teacher would start buying books and collecting/recycling books and stationery for slum children. In 2017, Badsra opened the Open Eye foundation and the last three years have seen him distribute more than 18,000 books among slum children in the Tricity. “During my JBT training, the school kids at Dadam village would not return with their homework the next day as they did not have books and copies. It inspired me to do something and when I returned to Chandigarh and told my family about this idea, they did not support me initially as they wanted me to do a job. I left home and would work as a waiter at weddings to earn some money and organised first book donation camp at PGGC, Sector 11, for poor students. Seeing my commitment, my family, including my brother and his wife, too helped me with Rs 35,000 for the books and since then, it has been all about providing books/education to the poor. I would walk or later drive a second-hand scooter to collect books from people. Sometimes I had to keep books at my friends’ homes as I did not have much space in my room,” Badsra said.
The last two years have seen Badsra open a small office at Nayagaon and later at a rented 690 square feet office Khudda Lahora, from where he currently works. While Badsra runs a consultancy and tiffin business, 60 percent of his earnings are spent on the NGO. During the lockdown, Badsra’s NGO has also sponsored 40 slum children for their education apart from him and his team of volunteers recording 40 audio books for the visually impaired students. “Whatever I have done is due to help of friends and citizens of the tricity who want to play their part for the society. Last year, we got a small van to convert it into a mini-library. During the lockdown, we also helped more than 150 students with ration and adopting 40 students for education. During the lockdown, many city residents and volunteers have helped us in recording more than 40 audio books for visually impaired students,” says Badsra.
The 28-year-old believes that seeing students pass their exams and study is his biggest reward. “I am inspired by my grandfather, the late Subedar Kanhaiya Kumar, who opened a school by selling his land at our native village in 1950s. The school has now been converted into government school. My biggest reward is when students come with sweets and tell me that they need books for next year as well,” Badsra said.
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