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The redoubtable babus of Mumbai

The Lanja Rajapur Sangameshwar Utkarsha Mandal is run by government clerks to serve poor rural children

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Here's an example of how the meek might inherit India. Here too, is an insight into what really makes India tick, keeping hope alive amidst unrelieved chaos and selfishness. A small bunch of office clerks, typists and receptionists in Mumbai have found themselves a mission. During working hours they were viewed as rulers of ossified interiors of government offices. After work, they seemed to have no relevance.

A chance offered itself 15 years ago to shrug off their ghost like existence in the big city. They grabbed it to become people who matter, instead of people seen —if at all— as hurdles. Every year they visit the Konkan coast bearing goods and support for hundreds of schools. The rest of the year, they work to plan for that visit.

They are babus transformed into guardian angels of Ratnagiri's poor school-children. They run the Lanja Rajapur Sanghameshwar Taluka Utkarsha Mandal - 'Association for Uplift of Lanja, Rajapur and Sangameshwar Counties'.

How green -and grim- the valley:

A vast district in southern Maharashtra, Ratnagiri is for the most part green and pretty. But despite abundant annual rains, its intrinsically agricultural community faces an unobvious sort of poverty due to recurrent droughts.

Education though esteemed, is elusive. Majority of schools are located many miles away from scattered homes, past steep hillocks and streams that overflow in the rains; it's a daily trek that many children make without shoes, umbrellas or school uniforms.

Nearly none of the schools has furniture; classes are held on the floor with as many as five different grades handled simultaneously by a single teacher in one classroom. And for this service, there are fees to pay; though modest, they are still beyond the means of most parents. Thus it is, that it's hard to keep children in the 1500 or so schools of Ratnagiri's talukas. Most students drop out of school by class 7 or 8, to become farm hands or industrial apprentices in nearby towns.

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