Arzan Chacha, an elderly shopkeeper on the campus of Islamia College University, who has been selling books, stationery, and uniforms for more than 40 years despite rising inflation, wants store owners to give books to underprivileged students at a reduced price.
In order to assist students from lower middle-class backgrounds, Syed Badshah, a resident of Lakki Marwat who was himself illiterate, decided to open a book and stationery shop at Islamia College Peshawar (ICP) about 40 years ago.
He accepted the position to oversee the student hostels at ICP after retiring from the army at a lower level. He soon noticed that booksellers on campus would extort money from students for their textbooks, notes, and uniforms.
He approached then-high officials to ask them for permission to open a store on campus where underprivileged students could purchase items at reduced prices.
Students from in and around the campus swarmed his bookshop to get textbooks, guides and stationery items at such a low price that they tagged Syed Badshah as ‘Arzaan Chacha’ (subsidized uncle). The students passed out three decades ago send out their children to his store where the grey-beard and humble man not only sells out things at low prices but also gifts a pencil or two free of cost to them.
“I have been selling books and student uniforms for the last 40 years. I earn only 10 to 15 percent profit while other book dealers use fake tag prices and charge buyers from 50 to 70 percent and at times 100 to 150 percent. It is an utter injustice but nobody seems to take notice of it, surprisingly, students in large numbers walk up to this store,” said Mr. Badshah.
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He requested book dealers to reduce prices of at least books and stationery items to enable poor students to get an education. “Even 10 to 15 percent profit is enough to live a humble life with. My rivals have posted my death news on social media three times to discourage my poor customers but I don’t care,” he added.