BASED in Patna, the capital of India’s poorest state, Shoshit Seva Sangh provides free quality education in an English medium school to the Musahar community in Bihar, whose literacy rate is just 6%. The Musahars live in subhuman conditions in ghettos scattered across several villages in the state. The children, therefore, have to be given boarding, lodging and all other facilities.

J.K. Sinha, the founder of SSS, is a retired IPS officer and a Padma Shri recipient. He joined the Indian Police Service in 1967, rose to become Special Secretary and served in India and abroad while on deputation for 35 years with the Government of India. He calls the project at Shoshit Seva Sangh A Silent Revolution and History in the Making.

Our conversation with him in this Lead Read series was humbling to say the least and inspiring for anyone who is still trying to find their way in life. We asked him about his long journey and how he has been coping with the pandemic.

How has the pandemic affected you and your work?

Well, personally I’m doing okay. The school, however, has taken a hit because of the pandemic and has been closed since March last year. The government allowed the school to open for classes 10 to 12 in January. So those boys have joined the school. The others have been idle and have returned to their homes, we don’t know when we can open the school for them (classes below 10th).

Did you consider finding alternative ways to educate them? Are online classes a possibility? 

That’s not possible. They don’t have internet connections. They don’t have laptops. They don’t have smartphones. So there was no way that we could do distance learning for these kids. Rural schools have been hit hardest during the pandemic.

How have you been managing the school in this pandemic? 

You see I’m located in Patna and the school is in the outskirts, so I work from my residential office. I used to go to the school very often when it was fully functional and we didn’t have the pandemic, but my job at the moment is to keep in-touch with the donors, submit all the reports which are required, also to sort out payments which are necessary, the salaries of teachers and such. Many administrative problems have to be addressed.

How would you like to introduce yourself to the part of the world who does not know you yet? 

Well, to that half I can only say that anyone and everyone, if they try to do something for the state and society, one can do it. One need not be a big industrialist to do this, one need not have a lot of clout to do it. If one is determined to do something and has the time then it is possible. Whichever way one can contribute, they should. One should not remain idle. And those who are working should also see how best they can help society. Every little difference is a difference. So, this is the message I’d like to convey to those who might like to hear me.

How has the journey been so far for Shoshit Seva Sangh from the time it was constituted?

Looking back, I am overwhelmed by how God has helped evolve this project over the course of time. It was far beyond my capacity and I truly understand that. When we started we had very little support and at that time I picked four boys for the project and had sent them to Patna. Ever since then, the journey has been incredible – we built the school and hostels with all the facilities from crores of investment, which was out of my capability.

Today we have a school which caters to the lowest of the low and tries to give them the best of school education in the English medium and in the process, try to give them all the facilities which my school gave to me in terms of living conditions, sporting facility and faculty. So, it has been a fascinating journey but a humbling one nonetheless.

If you could invite three famous people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

The most obvious choice for me would be Swami Vivekananda whom I hold in great esteem – an intellectual and spiritual personality. The second choice would be Dr Ambedkar, it would be nice to talk to him about my project at Shoshit Seva Sangh and how his ideas, the government and the states of India work for the Scheduled Caste communities. The third would be Mahatma Gandhi to find how sheer spirituality and will power can overcome difficulties and a combination of these two elements of his personality helped him face the odds so successfully.

These are the people I would like to have dinner with, to learn more from them.

What is your message to the world?

One can really contribute usefully in one’s retirement and my message is just this – that if every government servant or anyone retiring from his/her profession, having acquired financial cushion over the years of their service and their job can do something for the society, should do so. They can be inspired by a will to be altruistic. One should not feel that retirement is the end of service, they must not while away their time and resources.

Imagine If everyone and anyone was in the position to do something, something very little, how self-elevating it would be. I have seen many retired officials turn into a cabbage because they have not made use of their body and mind to its full potential and financially they are very prosperous too, so why while away time? Retirement from service is alright but retirement from life should never happen.

Interviewed by Abhishek Pde

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