Based on inputs by Shahid Kazi
Odisha’s Devarapalli Prakash Rao, a tea shop owner in Cuttack for past 50 years, was conferred with Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award. Sometime back he was also praised by the Prime Minister , While speaking on ‘Mann Ki Baat’, for his role in educating underprivileged children . He called him the guardian angel for children who hail from families that are economically backward .
For the past 18 years, 59 year old, has been contributing half his income towards education of children of rickshaw-pullers, daily wage earners and municipal drain workers. He provides for the education and food (milk and biscuits as midday meal) along with providing them with school uniforms and chappals.
It took a lot of energy on Rao’s part to convince the parents to send their children to school. According to Rao, the parents thought that sending their children to school would lead to one less working member for the family. But somehow, Rao was able to persuade them and now the school has classes till 3rd standard.
His love for education is rooted in his own past. Rao was always interested in reading and writing. However, his father wanted him to lend a helping hand in the tea business. Therefore, he was forced to quit school even before he could clear class X.
As per HT, Rao said that he is an ordinary tea seller and earning the PM’s praise was something he had never even dreamt of.