A schoolteacher couple in West Burdwan’s Andal have spent a big part of their salaries to help people rendered jobless in the lockdown buy food.
Government primary schoolteacher Priyanka Sarkar, 29, said she visited the homes of some of her students of Damodar Colony Primary School to find out how they were doing during the lockdown. What she saw left her shaken, she added.
“I found many of my students and their families going without proper food. Fathers of many of these students are daily wage earners. I realised they are struggling to arrange two square meals because of the lockdown-induced job loss,” Priyanka said.
She added that she told her husband Sobhan about their plight and discussed how they could help.
Sobhan, who teaches at the Jiara Primary School at Burdwan Sadar in East Burdwan, said: “When my wife told me we should help those in dire straits. I agreed.”
The couple decided to spend a major part of their salaries — Sobhan and Priyanka earn Rs 36,000 and Rs 32,000 a month, respectively — and personal savings to help out families without jobs.
“We are at home because schools are closed amid the pandemic and yet getting paid by the government. So we decided to reach out to those who lost their jobs during the lockdown,” said Sobhan.
Since April, the couple had spent around Rs 75,000 in their efforts to help the people, he added.
In April and May, the couple distributed grocery items to around 150 poor families in Andal’s Ramprashadpur.
In June, they stopped distributing relief at homes. Instead, they handed over 150 coupons valued between Rs 250 and Rs 1,000 to people of Ramprashadpur, Arabindanagar, Daspara, Schoolpara and Kuldanga in Andal. People with coupons could exchange them for groceries and other basics from a shop that the couple had selected.
“We paid Rs 60,000 to the shop owner in advance after doing a survey of what the families need. Then we distributed coupons among the families,” said Sobhan.
Shop owner Mohammad Murshad Alam said he knew NGOs and political parties were helping people but “an individual initiative like this is unprecedented”.
Primary School Council chairman of East and West Burdwan Achintya Chakraborty said this was a great initiative. “I will be happy if other teachers come forward to help the poor.”
Putula Mandal, 35, of Ramprashadpur, whose daily wage earner husband lost his job during the lockdown, had the last word. “This teacher couple helped me with food during the lockdown. I have never seen god, but these two are really gods for us.”