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After son’s death, Rajasthan man spends money saved for his education on social cause

Shankarlal Verma, a businessman, has spent more than Rs 20 lakh to build a community centre at Jalpali in Rajasthan’s Sikar district.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2018 10:24 IST
Manoj Ahuja
Manoj Ahuja
Hindustan Times, Jalpali (Sikar)
Rajasthan man,Son's death,Social cause
Shankarlal Verma with his two daughters at Gayatri Chetna Centre in Jalpali, Rajasthan.(Prabhakar Sharma/HT Photo)

Shankarlal Verma, 65, is a driven man. Driven by intense personal grief since the last five years, he has given life to a cause greater than himself or his family.

Verma, a businessman, has spent more than Rs 20 lakh to build a community centre at Jalpali in Rajasthan’s Sikar district.

A bulk of the money he spent on building the community hub, Gayatri Chetna Centre, is what he had saved for his son Gautam’s education. Verma wanted Gautam to be a doctor. Gautam died of a brain haemorrhage in 2013. He was 13 years old and Verma’s youngest child, the only son among five daughters.

Nearly two years in the making, the centre — standing on 2,250 square yard ancestral land belonging to Verma and his brothers — was inaugurated on January 22.

Verma’s goal is to improve the quality of life of children, women and fellow residents, and also generate employment.

“There is lot of work to be done,” said Verma, who is assisted by two of his daughters, Sunita and Pragya. Both are schoolteachers.

Jalpali has all the rural trappings but is a municipal ward in Srimadhopur, about 75 km north of state capital Jaipur. The municipal ward status renders Jalpali ineligible for benefits of government schemes for villages.

Jalpali residents, however, consider their place to be a village. They gather at the centre each morning and evening for meditation and yoga. “By the end of this month, the centre will start computer literacy classes for children and skill development classes for women,” said Verma. “All the courses will be free.”

Verma, who rents public address and sound systems for weddings and religious events, said the centre had four computers and orders had been placed for four more.

“We have also bought 10 stitching machines for training women. The plan is to take order from shops and factories, buy the raw material and supply the finished dress. We will take care of all the initial financial requirements,” he said.

Sunita said their focus was on women and children. “The students in the village are also enthusiastic as the nearest computer centre is far off and money is a constraint,” she said. She and Pragya help their father at the centre after school hours.

“The plan is to teach children basics of computer. Through skill development classes, we want to make the women financially self sufficient,” said Sunita.

Jalpali residents say the government should see the potential in Verma’s centre and help him grow it. “It’s a good concept. There is no such centre that provides free coaching in the entire district. The centre can flourish if the government gives some aid,” said Harinarayan Swami, a retired Rajasthan roadways manager.

Chiranjilal, a retired teacher of Jalpali, said, “Government schemes such as Atal Seva Kendra are for villages. There is little development here although for all practical purpose it is a village.”

Sikar MLA RL Jaldhari of the ruling BJP said he would find out more about the centre and see if any help could be extended.

Verma said he was open to help from the government, but was not counting on it. “If the government helps, fine; otherwise, we are capable of taking care of the centre. Having lost my son, I now see him in other children and so have no hesitation in spending my money for them.”

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 10:23 IST