Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh:
It’s an incongruous scene – a policeman in uniform teaching basic Hindi, English and Math to a bunch of children sitting under a tree.
Ranjit Yadav, a 2015-batch sub-inspector, is posted at the office of Ayodhya Range deputy inspector general (DIG) of police. But off duty, he is known as “Vardi Wale Guruji”, the teacher in uniform.
His students are mostly the children of beggars who throng the narrow lanes between the temples and ‘maths’ on the ghats of the Saryu in this holy city.
Some are orphans, like 12-year-old Mehak who stays with her distant relatives.
“Initially I was afraid of Sir, scared that I would be beaten up. But it’s now fun to attend the class,” she said when Press Trust of India visited “Apna School”(Our School).
She has started identifying alphabets and numbers, and can do some calculations as well.
Sub Inspector Yadav’s mission began when he was earlier deployed at the Nayaghat police post. He came across several children begging at the riverbank, along with their parents.
He found that the children stayed at Khurja Kund locality, where several families of beggars lived.
“After meeting them, I decided to do something for them and then the idea of running a class for such deprived children came to my mind,” Mr Yadav told news agency PTI.
“I gathered the parents and asked them if they would send their children if I start classes. Initially they were not very enthusiastic but they later agreed. I began the classes in September 2021,” he said.
Now more than 60 children attend his class regularly between 7 and 9 am.
The classes run in the open under a tree near Khurja Kund, some distance from the famed temples there. Both boys and girls, some of them wearing the ‘hijab’, attend.
Mr Yadav said his first priority is his regular police job. In case he has to be at work in the morning, he gets some students to manage the class.
Not that the bosses mind.
“The seniors are very supportive and they have applauded me for this work. They say my work is also improving the image of the force.” Initially, he met the expenses at “Apna School” – notebooks, pens and pencils – from his salary. But as more children enrolled, expenses mounted. The school also has a whiteboard.
“Some social organisations and local people are supporting the cause of imparting education,” Yadav, who holds a post-graduate degree from Banaras Hindu University (BHU), said.
The children at his class are also shown videos on mobile phones about the importance of getting an education “and how it could change their lives,” Yadav said.
Shiv, who is around 15 and has been attending the class for about a year, said it has made him more confident.
“I can write and read a bit now. I can also count now,” he said. And his classmate Muskan, 13, talked about getting enrolled in a government school someday.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)