Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Agrasar Bachpan: Prerit Rana

Prerit Rana, CEO and co-founder of Agrasar shares the story of how Agrasar Bachpan, their latest initiative, came into being. Agrasar is located in 1173, Sector-45, Gurgaon, Haryana, and works with education, employability, and migration. 


I thought of sharing the story of ‘Agrasar Bachpan’ here. I am writing as I reflect on this 6 month journey.

As usual, we were on a mobilization drive for our vocational training centres in Gurgaon. It was the month of February this year. Even though the weather was pleasant, community mobilization is a tough process and when you are on it, you tend to overlook everything except your “target-group”. I am sure a lot of you would be nodding in agreement!


Children at the jhuggi visited by Agrasar

However, what we saw in this jhuggi cluster (hutment) in Islampur village was hard to ignore.  It was 11 in the morning and there were children all around. Some playing marbles, others simply roaming around. Girls seemed to have replaced their mothers, while they were

on their duties as house-maids in nearby residential areas.

No elder was to be seen as the fathers also went for work either in the nearby construction sites or to collect waste. There were around 200 families – 150 from Malda district of Bengal and others from Panna region of Madhya Pradesh.

One field worker casually asked a group of children playing marbles – “Arre bachchon, aaj school nahi gaye?”.. “hum school nahin jaate” they yelled. They questioned our existence. We, “social-development professionals”.

I started thinking of planning research to find out the reasons for them not going to school. While thinking that I asked them – “Will you go to school if we get you admitted?”“No No, it is very far. And, we do not want to go in that school. Some of us went there but left within a few days”. I have heard of all kinds of stories from my friends working in education, so thought of not probing further.

We entered the jhuggis and met a few ladies and men who couldn’t find work that day. They told us around ten reasons for not sending the children to school. No reason could be discounted on the face of it. However, two reasons emerged from half an hour of discussion that were most critical–The government school was “very far”; they don’t have money to pay high admission fee for private schools.

Children playing at Agrasar Bachpan

Children playing at Agrasar Bachpan

“Will you go to school, if we set up a school here?”. I was a little shocked by this question as I understand that it is not as easy to just set up a school as my young colleague thinks! But, equally surprising was the reaction from people. Pleasantly surprising! They said a big YES on top of their voices. I could already see them elated. They seemed to be relieved. They thanked us!! My team member, on her first job, who asked this question was equally elated. She did not understand how difficult it is to raise funds!

Anyways, I couldn’t gather the courage to ask them to wait. After interacting with children and some of the parents I had already realized that the children are getting spoiled day by day. At age of 6-7 they get into gambling and a ten year old could easily be seen smoking a beedi.

“So, let’s begin from tomorrow.” This was the most important promise I had every made in my career. I also realized that what I have done here is antithetical to the development theory and normal practice. But, the decision was already taken.

We started the next morning. We came to a nearby park at 9:30 am as promised. And what we saw was the most beautiful sight I have ever witnessed in Agrasar. Around 80 children were there. And, many of the parents who chose not to go to work that day were also present.  They wanted to witness the first day of their children’s education. We were prepared only for 15!! Now, what to do? We were not sure. Only thing we knew was that there is no looking back now. While the team was busy in playing games with the children and the park is full of all sorts of hullabaloos, I was completely engrossed. I was just thinking of sustaining it. I was wondering which corporate would fund education of children who are at such a high risk of migration. And how much time is it going to take.

Children at the jhuggi visited by Agrasar

Children at the jhuggi visited by Agrasar

Suddenly, I realized I am getting worried in vain. The peepal tree was not going to charge us any rent for its shade. Our team members and a few ladies who came to volunteer were not going to go anywhere. It was not impossible to arrange books and stationery from the residents in nearby areas. I remember being involved in the joy that was pervasive all around. It was infectious.

It has been six months now. Our volunteers – Sushmitha, Soma and Swapna stayed. Not just stayed, they took the ownership of the school and when three passionate mothers do that what else do we need!

We have corporate funding now. We have more resources. We have our own premises as well, which has fans, and the walls are painted.

Children at Agrasar Bachpan

Children at Agrasar Bachpan

Children have been regular. They are learning, and now even more eager to learn. The parents have already started dreaming about their children. They participate proactively. They admire the school. They respect the teachers. They ask us a lot of questions. They complain at times! It’s a school funded by a corporate, run by an NGO, but owned by the community.

There are around 25000 children (in age group 5 to 12 year) in Gurgaon who are not enrolled in schools. And a lot more, who may be enrolled in schools, but are not learning much. We understand that we won’t be able to reach out to them alone. We are relying on a collaborative effort of schools with similar stories. We are learning from them; assisting them in their endeavors. We have made a promise to provide quality education to the children of Gurgaon. We have high hopes!


Radhika M. Chakraborty

Radhika M. Chakraborty

Radhika M Chakraborty has completed a degree in English Literature from Delhi University and a Master's degree in Women's Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Her research interests include gender and migration, diasporas, Partition, internal displacement and Sindhi culture.
Radhika M. Chakraborty

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2 Responses to “Agrasar Bachpan: Prerit Rana”

  1. Manoj Bhatt says:

    I would congratulate Mr. Prerit and his team who were able to see the problem of these children but did not just kept thinking about the problem and making it bigger rather they took action and mobilized resources. No doubt fund raising is a challenge but when our children can cope up with there challenges so can we.
    Truly inspiring,Agrasar Bachpan.

    My best wishes for your school, May it be a source of knowledge and positivity in the world.


    Manoj Bhatt

  2. Prerit Rana says:

    Thank You Mr. Bhatt


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