PM Modi praises Odisha tea seller for providing education to slum children
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PM Modi praises Odisha tea seller for providing education to slum children

In his Mann Ki Baat address on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed a tea seller in Odisha’s Cuttack for providing education to 70 slum children for the last 18 years.

india Updated: May 27, 2018 19:11 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Narendra Modi,Mann Ki Baat,Odisha tea-seller
Odisha tea-seller D Prakash Rao with some of his students.(HT/Arabinda Mahapatra)

For children of rickshaw-pullers, daily wage earners and municipal drain workers in the millennium city of Cuttack, life would have probably ended in the gutters had Devarapalli Prakash Rao not been around.

The 59-year-old tea seller whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised during his Mann Ki Baat programme on Sunday morning has been the guardian angel to over 70 slum children for the last 18 years, by helping them get educated.

Rao, who runs his shop in Buxi Bazaar area of Cuttack has been spending more than 50% of his daily income on the education and food of the children, who otherwise would have been loafing around in the by-lanes of the city.

“I was overwhelmed with joy when PM saheb spoke about me in radio. I am an ordinary tea seller and in my wildest dreams I never thought that Modiji would praise me. Yesterday, he had invited me and the children of my school before his public meeting at Baliyatra ground in Cuttack. During our 18-minute meeting, he enquired about my school like a family member. He seemed to be tense before the meeting, but he looked relaxed after meeting all of us,” said Rao.

A school dropout himself, Rao started the school ‘Asha O Ashwasana’ in 2000 when he saw kids in his neighbourhood taking to petty crimes or becoming alcoholics. In the 1960s when his father, a World War II veteran, started a tea shop in Cuttack he encouraged Rao to help him. Rao’s father thought schools were waste of time and never encouraged his son to attend school.

Rankled by the memories of his incomplete education, he started the school in 2000, but found the parents unwilling as that would have meant loss of one working member. After much persuasion, they agreed and the school today has classes till Class 3, after which the students take admission in other schools. Rao also feeds milk and biscuits to the kids as midday meal from his own income apart from giving them school uniform and chappal.

Rao’s wife is a nurse in the SCB Medical College and Hospital who sustains the family with her income while a major part of his own income from the tea stall is spent on the school.

Apart from his school, Rao is also a well known blood donor. Till date, he has donated blood 214 times and platelets seven times. Rao took to blood donation when he suffered from paralysis in 1976. When he recovered after spending six months in hospital, he learnt that someone had donated blood to save his life. He started donating blood in 1978.

During Saturday’s meeting with Rao, Modi asked the kids to sing and then promised one of them that he would come back to have rice and dalma with him. Rao said if the PM gets time, he would make a hot cup of tea for him. “The tea binds us together,” he said.

First Published: May 27, 2018 16:18 IST