Dropout who is engineering a hundred orphan dreams

By Byomakesh Biswal, IANS,

Bhubaneswar: In 2000, as Rajesh Singh stood at a railway platform in Orissa, it was the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

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He dropped out of his engineering course after seeing the plight of orphan children at the platform and decided to educate them and bring their careers on track.

Singh, 29, a resident of Jharkhand’s Sahebganj district and a mechanical engineering diploma holder, has few regrets in life, 10 years after his decision not to pursue his B Tech degree from the National Institute of Technology, formerly known as Regional Engineering College, Rourkela, Orissa.

In the last decade, he has helped educate more than 150 orphaned and underprivileged children. He has also set a target to make engineers out of 100 orphan children in this part of eastern India.

“I had always wanted to do something for children. Moved by the plight of children at the platform, I had to make a hard choice whether to go for my engineering degree or teach orphan children and help them achieve their dreams. I decided on the latter,” Singh told IANS.

Singh, whose father is a teacher and mother an employee in an insurance company, used to enjoy teaching underprivileged children right from childhood. And for him it was also a way to divert his attention from family problems.

“Teaching children was a way to keep myself diverted from family problems as there were some differences between my parents,” Singh said.

But when he decided to shape the career of orphan children he faced stiff resistance from his parents and society. The eldest of four children, he was literally disowned by his parents for the next five years. He said they were disappointed and angry with him for dropping out of studies to help poor children.

“My parents broke ties with me for five years. They were opposed to my choosing this path till my sister’s marriage when my mother gave me a call to invite me for the marriage,” he recalled.

“My parents have now accepted my decision. My mother, who strongly opposed my decision, now sponsors excursion trips for these orphan children once a year,” he said.

Even the residents of Rourkela initially found it difficult to accept a young man who “lived like an orphan along with orphan children”.

Initially M.D. Mukherjee, principal of the Indo-English School in Rourkela, helped him financially and morally. Mukherjee used to provide him with books and money in the early days when he used to teach the children at the Rourkela railway station.

Railway officials, including the station master, helped him too. Soon members of the local Rotary club also extended help for the cause.

“The locals ostracised me initially as I used to mingle with orphaned children at the railway platform. I myself felt like an orphan. But their perception changed gradually. They now appreciate my work,” he said.

Groomed by him, more than two dozen orphans are now doing professional courses from engineering colleges in Orissa.

“Thanks to Rajesh sir, I am now pursuing a degree course in IT from a good college. Otherwise, I can’t imagine what I would have been doing now,” said Babita, an orphaned girl.

Now Singh has built a small four-room school and orphanage named New Hope near the Rourkela railway station where he stays with a dozen other orphans.

This year he is grooming half a dozen children for the Navoday Vidyalaya entrance test at his orphanage.

“I am grooming these orphan children to get through the Navoday Vidyalaya entrance test as they would get quality education without spending any money. I am hopeful that this year three or four of them will crack it,” he said.

Singh also teaches preparatory classes for competitive exams and spoken English, taking a bit of money from local students to sustain himself.

Ten years after dropping out of further studies, he has now started preparation to complete his engineering degree.

(Byomakesh Biswal can be contacted at [email protected])