“Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.” Martin Luther King Jr.,
We have all traveled by trains at one time or the other. It is a common sight to see street kids begging on the platforms and on trains. Some of us give them alms or some leftover food items, others look at them with contempt and ask them to do some work rather than just begging. After that, out of sight, out of mind. There is someone who did not stop at that but devoted his life to make their lives worth living. This Good Samaritan is Rama Chandra Sarath Babu a former clerk in Indian Railways. He looks after about 150 children. Sarath Babu has been running an ashram in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh for the children who beg and steal on railway platforms since 1994. Because of his untiring service, some of these children have become scientists, inspectors, and teachers at various places.
Till a few years back, he was posted at Nellore Railway station in Andhra Pradesh. He would see children begging, stealing, getting beaten by police if caught stealing. He always wanted to do something for them, but could not, since he didn’t have capital with him. His first priority was to remove them from this environment and provide them a place to eat, rest and sleep. He approached the elders of Gollapallem village in Allur Mandal of Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh and requested them to provide a piece of land. The Panchayat acceded to his request and allotted a piece of land. A hut, measuring 30 x 15 feet, was constructed with some material available in the village, where he started bringing children begging at different railway platforms of the region. Today most of his children are doing good jobs in different institutions, but he doesn’t believe in taking credit. “They are so intelligent already, I am nothing but a humble enabler,” said a humble Sarath Babu.
The process of rehabilitation was a daunting but was determined enough to take up the challenge. He was lucky that he had friends who helped him in this cause. Stealing and violence were all that the children knew as a way of survival. Sometimes Sarath would be tied up to his cot or being constantly pickpocketed by another child. But he didn’t give up as he believed later if not sooner, the change will come.Seeing the untiring efforts of Sarath and his team, the panchayat allotted 4.5 acres of land to build the ashram. His involvement with the ashram was growing day by day, so in 2011, he took VRS from Railways and devoted himself full time to his cause.
Today, Child Ashram is counted among the good schools in Nellore. Sarath has been managing this for the last 22 years with help donations, his pension and help from the locals. Villagers are so fond of these children that in every function, these children are invited and served food before anybody else.
It is amazing to know how Sarath’s tender care of the children has transformed their lives. One child came to ashram after his father’s death. He went on to pass Class X in the 1st division and completed M.Sc. in Organic Chemistry has now become a Junior Scientist at National Institute of Technology, Suratkal, Mangalore. Another child rescued by him has completed a polytechnic course in civil engineering and is serving as a Works Inspector in the Panchayat Raj Department. One more child, who used to beg on railway platforms is today serving as a Sub-Inspector in the Andhra Pradesh Police. Yet another child’s story is even more heartbreaking. His father lost his arm in a sawmill and later died. His mother used to sell tea and the child left uncared for, began to live on railway platforms. He started his basic schooling when he was 11 years old, under Sarath Babu’s care. Within a year and a half, he completed Class VII, passing with 1st division. He passed with distinction in Class X and XII too. He went on to complete B Tech and is now a physics lecturer in a private college.
The system that Sarath has developed is so effective that if he is to leave the organization today, the children would be able to manage the show on their own! Each child is assigned to a group, each group has a function within the ashram. One group takes care of cleaning, and other groups are responsible for cooking, going to the market, teaching the other children, washing utensils, etc. The girls’ quarters are strictly cordoned off to any men and are maintained very well with ample sanitation and privacy. The ashram children also grow their own vegetables and lovingly take care of a cow.
Sarath is an inspiration to all of us! We have a lot to learn from him and his children! The work of this humble railway clerk is commendable, something that we can hardly ever think of, let alone do. We salute this man who has brought about a positive change in the lives of so many