A British national who runs a charitable trust to educate poor children at Gairatpur Baas village here has been facing opposition from the locals who accuse him of land grab.
Howard Martin, 76, a former pilot with the Royal Navy in England, moved to India in 1999 with his wife Annie and settled at Gairatpur Baas, 10 km from Gurgaon. When he opened a school for the local children, the village panchayat promised him five acres of land to set up a building. However, the land could never be registered in the name of the trust floated by Martin. Although he has already built substantial infrastructure — 12 classrooms and office space — with the help of financial aid from philanthropic people all over the world, the panchayat has been making all efforts to create obstacles.
“It is being wrongly spread around by some motivated persons that we are here to grab land. We have requested the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) in the past to settle the dispute so that we could run the school smoothly. However, there is yet to be a final resolution by the panchayat,” said Martin.
In 2000, a US-based Indian doctor donated US$2,000 to Martin’s trust. Several expats and domestic visitors also donated generously over the years for the school infrastructure. The school has a special Montessori section besides regular classes up to Class 8 for boys and girls. The trust also has the necessary clearance to accept donations from abroad. Young expats from the US and the UK regularly volunteer to teach English here.
Martin said the future of the poor children is at stake because the school is not affiliated or recognised by any government body due to the prevalent tussle.
On the other hand, former sarpanch of the village Lekh Ram said, “I will not let this school get recognised as the land belongs to the panchayat and there is already a government school. We just allowed Martin to start classes for the village students for tuitions but he has turned it into a school.”