Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Kanta Chakraborty, a primary school teacher based in Kolkata, West Bengal, has lived this phrase. She is the mentor, guardian and teacher of 20 underprivileged girls between the ages of five and eighteen. Chakraborty wants respectable lives for these girls. She told BE, “They are my daughters. I want them to be good humans.”
In 2007, while travelling by train to her school – Behala Shanti Sangha Shiksha Mandir - two girls came to her and begged for help. She had asked them about their school. The girls had then told her that nobody helped them to pursue their schooling. After some days, those two girls again approached her. She was moved by them and approached the railway authorities and hawkers of Dum Dum station with her plan.
Everyone was convinced by her positivity and extended their help and her school started with two girls at the hawker’s room of Dum Dum station. Now she has 20 girls to look after. The task was not easy as they were addicted to drugs as a means to escape from the pangs of hunger. Kanta informed, “The first lesson to them was about the importance of cleanliness and discipline.” She has borne the responsibility of these twenty girls starting from fooding, clothing and education. She is presently being aided by many generous individuals. But, according to Kanta Chakraborty, these aids are not sufficient. The girls need a permanent shelter.
She is with these girls through their swimming classes, Karate training and teaches them twice a day. She conducts the morning class at Dum Dum railway station’s main platform and the evening class at the adjoining metro rail station.
All these girls are now enrolled in schools and colleges. Many of them have won international titles for Karate. Some of them have turned out to be talented swimmers. Kanta is helped by a few like-minded teachers. Nita Dutta, a teacher associated with this centre, stated, “I have been working with Kanta madam for the last 10 years and I enjoy working with her. I am so attached to these children that I do not want to leave them.” In 2009, the shelter was officially registered as the Niharkana Rehabilitation Centre, named after Kanta’s grandmother, Niharkana Devi.
Kanta informed, “The hawkers of the Dumdum station have helped me in a big way. The girls are actually being brought up in the hawker’s room. I am also indebted to the GRP and RPF staff and also to the staff of Eastern Railways and Metro Railways.”
Lovingly called ‘didimoni’ by the girls, Kanta has been successful in instilling strong societal values in them. Many of the girls want to be a teacher when they grow up. Kanta added, “Many underprivileged girls are approaching me but I am unable to accommodate them due to financial constraints.”
India needs more people like Kanta Chakrabarty. She has successfully reintroduced the true meaning of trust and honesty into the lives of these girls. She can continue her crusade with more support from the government and like-minded individuals.