Will sponsor children's education in J&K: Indrani Balan Foundation

Cyclist Mohammad Saleem Sheikh, who has competed in eight national-level events in various states, said he received overwhelming support from the foundation

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The Indrani Balan Foundation, which has adopted 10 schools established by the army in Jammu and Kashmir, on Friday said it would identify terror-affected families in the Union Territory and sponsor their children's education.

The foundation aims to rebuild the lives of children whose education has been jeopardised by drugs and militancy in the Valley, said its chairman Punit Balan.

"The Indrani Balan Foundation intends to support the victims of terrorism. Recently, such an incident took place in Rajouri and the children were affected there. All these children who are affected by such incidents, the basic problem they face is that of education. We will identify terrorism-affected families and sponsor their children's complete education," Balan told PTI in Baramulla.

Condemning the killings by militants and the devastation they cause to families, including leaving children orphaned, Balan said the foundation became involved because it wished to help these children as much as possible.

Balan is the first non-Jammu and Kashmir entrepreneur to begin working on children's education and other development projects since the repeal of Article 370 in August 2019. His goal is to provide free education to the children of Kashmir.

"Similar initiatives have been launched in other states but we chose Jammu and Kashmir because we believe that someone must take the lead," he said.

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The foundation has taken the lead in the 'Nation First' initiative for education of Kashmiri children. It has been running 10 schools established by the Indian Army in high-militancy areas -- Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag, Pehelgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Uri, Trehgam and Gurez.

It is also assisting the Dagger School for Special Children in Baramulla with technical, educational and financial aid.

The group has also been supporting Kashmiri athletes to compete in international events. So far, the foundation has supported approximately 5,000 such youths from the Valley.

Umar Ahmed, who played kho-kho for Mumbai Khiladi with support from the foundation said, "I am extremely thankful to the army and Punit Balan's group. I have been assisted by this organisation and they are providing me with all possible help to serve my country."

Cyclist Mohammad Saleem Sheikh, who has competed in eight national-level events in various states, said he received overwhelming support from the foundation.

"I received support from the group and the army. I encourage the youth to step forward and serve their country, rather than succumbing to militancy, drugs or radicalisation," he said.

Working closely with the army, the group collaborated with the Chinar Corps to install a 150-foot high-mast national flag in the historic town of Shopian on the 73rd Republic Day.

"Together with the army, I will undoubtedly do everything in my power to help build a new Kashmir," Balan said.

He also spoke about the group's focus on promoting sports and talents.

"We're giving them opportunities. Our team already has 60 athletes, four of whom are from Jammu and Kashmir. We believe that the youth of Kashmir deserve a platform to showcase their talent," Balan said.

First Published: Mar 17 2023 | 4:20 PM IST