Retail Therapy

Retail Therapy

Government College, Malerkotla, Punjab, turns a stationery store into an exercise in honesty. The price for each item — pens from Rs 5 to 20 and notebooks from Rs 10 to 30 — is pasted above the packet and a money box is placed on the table.

Students at the ‘Imaandari di Dukaan’ (Express photo by Gurmeet Singh)

The teachers of Government College Malerkotla, Punjab, have found a unique way to instill values of honesty and compassion in their students, armed with nothing more than a table and stationery. Near the college canteen, every day a wooden bench is put out with a white sheet that has a banner hanging before it that reads: ‘Sarkaari College Malerkotla Imaandari di Dukaan’ (Government College Malerkotla Honesty Shop). On the table, covered with a white cloth, are stationery articles such as pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners and notebooks. The price for each item — pens from Rs 5 to 20 and notebooks from Rs 10 to 30 — is pasted above the packet and a money box is placed on the table, where students can leave the payment.

“No one supervises this shop, that is kept on the lawns near canteen. Students can take the materials they require and leave the money inside the box. We don’t force anyone to put in money, it’s left to their conscience,” says Haroon Shafiq, professor of psychology, who is a committee member of this project, “We started this shop on August 21 this year, with an opening contribution of Rs 1,000. Initially we thought that students may not put any money inside the box, in fact we even thought that the box might be stolen. However, after about 20 days, when we opened the box, we found around Rs 630 inside. It was almost the same amount as the quantity of material taken. We used the money to buy more stationery. Early this month, we found more than Rs 1,300. Interestingly, many students had put in donations as well, apart from the money for the stationery,” says Shafiq.

This project was started when Parveen Sharma was the Principal of the college. Now that he has been transferred, Vice Principal Balwinder Singh is supervising the project, though Shafiq and Sohaib look into the details.

“We have appointed employees who keep the table out for transactions. It’s also kept out after college hours. They take care of the articles even when there is rain or storm. Otherwise no one supervises this ‘Imaandari di Dukaan’. We are really overwhelmed by the response. The teachers were of the opinion that students can always learn the syllabus from textbooks, and values of integrity and honesty are on the decline these days. We are really happy that our students have not let us down and we feel proud of them,” says Shafiq.

Professor of Urdu Mohammad Sohaib, who also looks after this project, says, “We have been placing the extra money in an envelope for each month. The details are written on a slip and kept so that we remember the amount. If the donations are more than expenses, it can be used to help poor students in paying their fees.”