“Musahars have been living in grinding poverty and sub-human conditions for centuries,” says Sinha, a 1967-batch IPS officer, who retired from service in 2005 as Secretary to Government of India. “My first contact with the community came way back in 1969 as a young police officer when I was asked to raid a Musahar ghetto to apprehend a gang of criminals. Their sub-human existence, literally living alongside pigs, was shocking and a moving experience for an urbane youngster like me who had lived a privileged existence” says Sinha.
Soon after retirement, he sold his flat in Delhi and returned to Patna as he wanted to “make some solid, meaningful contribution” to society. His quest to do something for the community led him to establish Shoshit Seva Sangh (SSS) in 2005 with the objective of providing quality education to the Musahar children.
“To my shock, little had changed in the community in 40 years,” says Sinha, who hurriedly got down to work.
He explains the importance of providing education for social change. “Knowledge has the power to liberate and emancipate. The obvious road ahead, therefore, was to provide quality education to the children of the Musahar community so that they could be empowered to compete with the best,” he says.After the formation of SSS, he started raising funds for the school, and in 2007, SSS collaborated with Samadhan, a Delhi based NGO and established Shoshit Samadhan Kendra (SSK), a fully free English medium residential school for Musahar children in Patna, Bihar. When he started visiting Musahar hamlets around Patna to persuade the impoverished families to send their children to his free school, he was ignored and his friends laughed at him. But now, the community regards him as an angel. Starting with four students, the school has total strength of 550 students today and is affiliated with Central Board of School Education (CBSE). The school provides free boarding, lodging, clothes, healthcare, and other necessities to its students.
Sinha says “The vision of the project is to bring about a silent revolution in the musahar community, which has lived in sub-human conditions for centuries. It will not be enough to give the children brought under the project proper schooling. To enable and empower these children to make a quantum jump in life, and become a catalyst of change within their community, it will be absolutely essential to see them through higher education. The school Shoshit Samadhan Kendra will have to parent these children till they reach their destined destination.In April 2019, 100 more Mushar children joined the school from all corners of Bihar, making the total number of students studying at the residential school to 650. The school needs support to cover costs of educating increasing number of students. The cost of supporting one student for a month is Rs. 4600 which includes providing all the requirements including stationary, uniform, food, lodging and medical care.