Shattered father to road safety crusader
A lecturer has launched a campaign among students and teachers and instituted various awards for excellence in academics and sports, reports Harpreet Bajwa
Published: 15th August 2021 09:42 AM | Last Updated: 15th August 2021 09:42 AM | A+A A-
PUNJAB: October 7, 2017 was a tragic day for Deepak Sharma, a commerce lecturer at Shaheed Sukhwinder Singh Government Senior Secondary Smart School at Mallanwala Khas in Punjab’s Ferozepur district. He lost his 16-year-old son Mayank, a Class X student, in a road accident. Mayank was not wearing a helmet while riding his motorbike to a stadium for his badminton practice.
Four years on, Sharma is a changed man: the tragic loss has turned him into a road safety activist who warns parents against underage and helmet-less driving. He also distributes free helmets and offers sports and academic excellence awards and scholarships to deserving girl students. To express his love for life, he undertakes plantation drives.
“Parents must not allow their children to drive before the legal age and also ensure that they follow safety rules. That’s the message of my NGO, the Mayank Foundation,” says Sharma who works in the Punjab education department.
“In Ferozepur, hardly anyone used a helmet while driving two-wheelers. So we started educating people through our ‘Wear Your Helmet’ campaign. We have distributed 750 helmets for free. In November 2019, we launched a campaign ‘Ye Diwali Helmet-wali’ and distributed helmets. Due to our efforts, a small section, around 25 per cent people, have started wearing helmets now,” says the lecturer.
Sharma said this year, a road safety month was observed in January-February during which seminars were held across the district. Earlier, some 50 seminars were held in schools and colleges in which students and teachers participated. “We told the students that they should keep in mind the legal age of driving and that they should always keep their licence with them while driving. The teachers were advised against allowing students to bring two- and four-wheelers to schools and colleges. They were also advised to lead by example,” says Sharma.
“We got around 2,000 calendars with road safety signs printed on them and distributed them in schools and colleges, besides pasting them at prominent places. We also distributed reflectors to be put on vehicles because in winter months, visibility is reduced, causing accidents.”
The foundation started giving excellence awards in studies and sports in 2018. “Top hundred students in ICSE, CBSE and Punjab School Education Board are given excellence awards. They also receive motivational lectures by IAS and IPS officers,” says Kamal Sharma, uncle of Mayank who is a science teacher at Government Senior Secondary School in Ferozepur.
Besides, the Mayank Sharma Sports Memorial award is given to deserving students. This award goes to those who win at national and state levels in various sports disciplines. “Every December, we hold the Mayank Sharma Memorial Badminton Championship. In the third edition of the tournament last year, 300 players took part from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. We also give cash awards, as my son was a badminton player,” says Sharma.
The foundation started the Pratibha Girls Scholarship programme last year. This is specifically focused on students of government schools. “We identify girl students who excel in studies and offer `10,000 to each girl every year till their graduation,” says Kamal Sharma. The foundation has started focusing on the environment. “The ‘each one plant one’ campaign entails planting 2021 saplings this year. We have already planted 650 saplings this year. This programme was started in 2018. So far we have planted 5,000 saplings in the city and nearby areas,” says Sharma.