Asha student Vivek- the first student from Kanchan Basti slum who will attend University

This is the story of 17 year old Vivek from Kanchan Basti in Mayapuri. In order to appreciate his remarkable achievements, it becomes important to understand the background of the community he belongs to.

He belongs to the Nat tribe from the state of UP. This is a Dalit( untouchables) community. They have been poor and landless, and have suffered discrimination for generations. They are strictly endogamous, marrying only among relatives. They are introvert and do not like to interact with others. When they first moved to Mayapuri 30 years ago, their primary source of income was begging and stealing. They are not given work in the scrapyard nearby because of the habit of stealing. They are now mostly working as rag pickers, or sellers of balloons at traffic lights or in the local market. Living in terribly unhygienic conditions is a habit, and they are not bothered by it.

There are 3000 families with homes by the scrap market, along an 8km stretch.

What makes Vivek’s story extraordinary is that no one in his community has ever gone to college in three generations. Vivek spent his childhood in a 6*6 ft room tied together with a tarpaulin sheet for the food, and garbage bags filled with empty bottles to fill in the yawning gaps. Their home is surrounded by large pools of stagnant water with mosquitoes breeding. There is solid waste all around, and they are immersed in the waste all day looking for metal and plastic.

Vivek’s family of 7 has to get by on 80 dollars a month. He does not have a bed or a chair in his home. They sleep on an overused mat with their bedding, clothes, cooking pots, and washing bowls all around the mat. It takes 4-5 hours for his turn to fill water through the water tankers. The nearest public toilet is 4km away.

Vivek says his father has had no work since the lockdown and the family has been entirely dependent on Asha for food and essentials, since then.

Vivek would love coming to the Asha centre as a student, and he was inspired by the senior university students and graduates. He came almost everyday during his high school year, and received books, a quiet place to study, volunteer coaching by Asha Ambassadors, and lots of mentoring and motivation.

He will be the first student in the history of his community, to go to university. Most students in Kanchan Basti drop out after grade 5. Vivek would like to do an Honours in Political Science. Asha stands firmly and fully behind him to help him achieve his goals in the midst of the toughest of circumstances.”

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