As a young boy, Ramesh Gholap lost his father and had to sell bangles along with his mother and siblings to earn their daily bread in a small village named Mahagaon in Solapur district, Maharashtra.
That boy grew to become an IAS officer and today Gholap is currently the Deputy Commissioner of Koderma, Jharkhand. Over the years, Ramesh never forgot his mother, selling bangles on a pushcart, and her determination to educate her children.
Reflecting on his past, he made his mission to ensure no child repeats his experience for having to work through their childhood. He strives daily to ensure children get an education and the opportunity to achieve something great.
To date, he has rescued and rehabilitated more than 35 children forced into labour at hotels and garages in different districts. He has also assigned himself as the guardian for an orphaned 11-year-old girl at Koderma.
Rescuing a young girl
“I was posted as the DC in June 2019. During winter, it is customary to distribute blankets among the poor. In January 2020, when we conducted the distribution drive, I noticed a young girl standing at the back of the line,” says Ramesh.
He got curious about the young girl waiting in the line and enquired about her. Ramesh found out that her name was Sapna Kumari, and she was 11 years old. Both her parents died when she was a little girl, and her grandparents and uncle raised her.
“My first question to her was, where do you study? She did not answer. The person who accompanied her mentioned that her family did not earn enough money to enrol her into a school.” he said.
Acting out of his instinct, the same day, the officer took the girl to the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya – a residential girls school run by the government of India. He signed himself as her guardian and immediately enrolled her into school.
“At the school, Sapna will be given a place to stay, food, and education. Apart from that, I also enrolled her into the Integrated Child development and security scheme through which she will receive Rs.2000 every month. Myself and a few other officers pitched in money to buy her a bag, stationery, shoes, and uniform,” says Ramesh.
Vibha Kumari, a warden at the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, says that Ramesh has given the child a new life.
“When Sapna joined, she would be distant from everyone, and she would cry every day, asking if she could go back home. But, the teachers and I reassured her that she was in good hands. Even her seniors in the hostel were welcoming and made her feel at home. Today, she is excelling in her favourite subject – Hindi, and she is also a good dancer,” says Vibha.
But, this is not the first time that the officer has rescued a child. In 2015, as the Sub Divisional Manager of Bermo in Bokaro district of Jharkhand, he came across a 9-year-old boy named Sumit. Sumit was working at a mechanic shop for Rs 1000 per month after his mother had sold him to the shop.
“The boy’s father passed away before he was born, and his mother could not afford to look after him. This boy had been working there for a few years, and when I asked him if he would like to study and go to school – he immediately agreed.
A few days later, I enrolled him in the government school and also ensured that his mother received a monthly income through a government scheme. Further, I explained to her about the importance of education and told my own story of rising above poverty. She promised never to sell him again,” says Ramesh adding that Sumit was given health insurance under the ‘Ayushman Bharat Yojana’ – a health insurance scheme launched by the Government of India.
During the lockdown, the officer got to know about five children who were orphaned after their father’s death earlier that month. The eldest son, who is 18, works as a daily-wage labourer. Ramesh ensured the four younger siblings, three girls and one boy all aged under 10, were enrolled in the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and Koderma government school respectively.
“Once schools reopen, they will begin their education, and with the help of Women and Child Development departments we have provided them access to health insurance, and government schemes that ensure a regular monthly income for their family.”
While Ramesh got his breakthrough thanks to his mom, one never knows where a life-changing chance can come. It is incredible to see this officer create so many opportunities for the most vulnerable of our society.
Image courtesy: Ramesh Gholap
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)