One rainy day in 2016, five students of the Government PDM Girls College, Kotputli, in Rajasthan, were returning home after college. Monsoon showers had brought relief from the scorching heat, but negotiating the narrow road off NH-8, leading to their village Choori, was more challenging than the examination they were preparing for.
Choori is situated 25 kilometres from the main Sikar Road link, on the Delhi-Jaipur highway. Some years ago, the terrain was home to lush green forests and the picturesque Aravali hills. Sadly, it is now a grim picture of a beauty ravaged by the unscrupulous quarrying mafia. It teems with stone crushers and heavy-duty dumpers and trucks that carry crushed stone to construction sites in the Delhi-NCR region. Their constant movement has left roads full of potholes.
To add to the people’s misery, just one bus serves not just Kotputli but several other villages along the route. Those not lucky enough to squeeze into the crowded bus, trek, but that too is fraught with risks. Stone crushers and trucks move menacingly, without regard for pedestrian safety, and women have to endure obscene remarks and, at times, physical advances by contractors and their cronies.
Due to the lack of proper public transport and frequent harassment by men, many parents hesitate to send their daughters to schools and colleges. Girls, too, refrain from travelling, with the nearest college 25 kilometres away in Kotputli. A few take risks, but eventually give up the daily commute and attend college once a fortnight or month, or visit institutions only to write examinations.
On that wet afternoon when the five girls were negotiating potholes, avoiding getting splashed by passing vehicles, and the men’s lecherous remarks, Dr Rameshwar Prasad Yadav from Choori, Kotputli, who works in the government hospital in Neem Ka Thana, offered them a lift in his car. During the ride, the girls shared their bitter experiences with Dr Yadav. At home, Dr Yadav narrated their problems to his wife. Without a second thought, the couple decided to launch Nishulk Beti Vahini Bus (free bus for girls).
The couple bought a bus, for which Yadav withdrew Rs 19 lakh from his provident fund account. He spends Rs 40,000 on operational costs each month from their hard-earned money.
The bus ferries nearly 60 girls from at least six villages, including Choori, Qayampura, Bhotpura, Pawana Ahir and Banethi, to school and back.
The provident fund and pension are savings that sustain government employees in their old age, but Yadav has already spent a huge amount. Didn’t his wife and children object?
“There was no question of any objection,” says Yadav. “Due to introduction of GST last year, the delivery of the bus was delayed, and colleges reopened. My wife Tarawati pressured me to arrange an alternative bus because she felt the girls would be disheartened. So I hired a bus for Rs 1,700 per day to ferry the girls.”
Yadav has three sons who are well-settled. Does his affection and sympathy for the village girls stem from the fact that he doesn’t have a daughter? Yadav’s eyes turn moist. “I lost my six-month-old daughter 20 years ago,” he says. “I couldn’t save her though I’m a paediatrician. The loss was a turning point in my life. I decided that the money I would have spent on my daughter’s education and marriage, I would now spend on underprivileged girl children. So I didn’t hesitate to use my PF savings, and my family didn’t object.”
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