Jitendra Kumar Soni, the collector of Jalore district in Rajasthan, was very touched when he saw three students coming to school barefoot in December last year. They were shivering in cold and the teachers informed him that their parents couldn’t even afford books. He instantly took them to the market and bought shoes.
In the first week of January he started a scheme named ‘Charan Paduka Yojna’, with the aim of providing free shoes to about 25,000 underprivileged school children before Republic Day.
Picture for representation only. Source: ChanduBandi/Flickr
He told the school authorities of 274 gram panchayats and three nagar palikas in the district to give him a detailed report of how many students come without shoes. The survey revealed that about 10 kids in each of the 2,500 schools were coming barefoot.
“As normal, non-branded school shoes cost just between Rs. 200 and Rs. 300, I thought people would help me if I ask them for support. We launched the scheme with the help of donors…This has become people’s scheme and I am just playing the role of a facilitator to ensure poor students of my district get shoes,” he told The Times of India, praising the people who visited his office everyday with donations.
The collector has decided that students will be provided with shoes every year. For winters, the shoes will be distributed on or before Republic Day, and for summers, on or before Independence Day. Motivated by the campaign, some teachers have also decided to help barefoot students in their schools individually.
“I also attended a government school and know the hard work my father had put in to get me educated. I always wore clothes stitched by a tailor and never visited a big city,” said the IAS officer.
Jitendra Kumar Soni comes from Dhanasar village near Rawatsar in Hanumangarh, Rajasthan. His father is a watchmaker and Jitendra grew up watching him work very hard to provide proper education to both his sons.