1. FESTIVALS: Durga Puja, Ashwin Shukla 1 to Ashwin Shukla 8-9 starting from 5th October this year, marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. The festival is widely celebrated in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tripura and West Bengal. Durga Puja is also celebrated as a major festival all over Bangladesh where over 10% population is Hindu. Today, many diaspora Bengali cultural organisations arrange Durgotsab in countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait, among others. In 2006, a grand Durga Puja ceremony was held in the Great Court of the British Museum.
Durga Puja is celebrated in different ways in different regions of Bharat. In Gujarat, Navaratri is devoted to Amba mataji. In homes, images of mataji are worshiped in accordance with accepted practice. In temples, it is celebrated with garba and dandia-ras late throughout the nights of these nine days. In Tamil Nadu, Golu is the festival celebrated during the Navaratri period. On this occasion dolls, predominantly that of the Gods and Goddesses from Hindu tradition are artistically arranged on a seven stepped wooden platform.
2. LAKHS OF YOUTH JOIN ‘BHARAT JAGO DOUD’ ACROSS NATION: Lakhs of youth, both men and women, joined the Bharat Jago Doud (a run for awakening Bharat) on September 11 across Bharat to commemorate 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and 120th anniversary of his historic Chicago speech given on September 11, 1893. The run was organised by Swami Vivekananda 150th Birth Anniversary Celebration Committee all over the country.
In Bangalore, the run began from three simultaneous points. Noted scholar Dr Chidananda Murthy, Dr Vijayalakshmi Balekundri, and RSS Akhil Bharatiya Bouddhik Pramukh Shri Bhagaiah, were present on the occasion. Nearly 5000 youth joined the run. In coastal city of Mangalore, over 20,000 youth participated in the run, which was inagurated by Shri Jita Kamananda Swamiji, president of Ramakrishna Mutt, Mangalore. RSS Sah Sarkaryavah Shri Dattatreya Hosabale addressed the gathering.
In Chennai, the event was blessed by Swami Gautamananda, president of Sri Ramakrishna Mutt Chennai, while in Bhopal; the sprint legend PT Usha joined the marathon with over 20,000 youth at Tatia Tope Stadium. Similar events are reported to have been organized all over the country like Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat Uttarakhand Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur etc.
3. KEDARNATH TEMPLE OPENS AFTER 86 DAYS: The "kapat" (doors) of the Kedarnath shrine opened on September 11 and proper "puja" was performed for the first time 86 days after heavy rains and floods devastated the region which left hundreds of people killed, scores missing, several routes destroyed in Uttarakhand in June 2013. Thirty priests performed the puja in the presence of office bearers of the shrine management committee, representatives of the Shankaracharya, officials and local legislator Shaila Rani Rawat. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna was forced to abort his travel plans due to inclement weather. The temple was decorated with flowers, and the nearby platform and other places which were damaged in the June floods, were covered with marquees.
The priests first performed "shuddhikaran" (cleansing) puja, after which the deity at the sanctum sanctorum was bathed in milk, holy water from the river Ganga and other items were used in the puja of Lord Shiva.
Officials said it would take some time before the temple is opened to the public. This was because the approach roads to the temple are in bad shape and would take a long time to rebuild.
4. DHARMA AND YOGA FEST at Houston: On Saturday, Sept 7th, close to 1000 representatives from 66 organizations joined hands in celebrating “Dharma and Yoga Fest” in Houston. Spearheaded by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Dharma and Yoga fest was held as the culmination of the yearlong festivities called Swami Vivekananda 150 (SV150), in commemoration of Swami Ji’s 150th birth year anniversary. Such events are happening in 30 different cities across USA, spreading the awareness about Swamiji’s teachings and path of religious tolerance and brotherhood.
The entire event was set up in four parallel tracks, namely, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga.
The Jnana Yoga track had two parallel sessions: a Panel Discussion Session and Speech Contest for middle school and high school kids. Four parallel sessions were planned for Bhakti Yoga: Bhajan & Kirtan recitals, panel discussion on Nava Vidha Bhakti, recital of the entire Srimad Bhagvad Gita and an exhibition on Bhakti Yoga. Karma yoga track focused on the field serving the humanity with charity, social service, disaster response and rehabilitation. Raja Yoga track started with the attendees performing Pranayama (breathing exercises) and then heading into the lecture series.
Over 40 kids from all over Greater Houston put together a play showcasing the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
5. NEGLECT OF N-E REGION PROVING COSTLY TO THE NATION—MOHAN BHAGWAT: "The neglect of certain areas or the people of our society has proved very costly to the entire nation. It also contributed hugely in making the nation weak. The feeling of alienation that has developed in the hearts of some people of north eastern areas is one example of it. Such a feeling can only be rectified by our own efforts,” said RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat. He was addressing a select gathering in New Delhi on September 1 after felicitating Shri Dipok Barthakur of Assam with Swami Vivekananda Smriti Karmayogi Award.
The award, which consists of a memento and a cheque of Rs one lakh, was presented by My Home India, a forum established to connect the people of north-east with the rest of the country. Retired IPS officer Shri Prakash Singh and convener of My Home India Shri Sunil Deodhar were also present on the occasion. Noted businessman of Delhi Shri Sajjan Kumar Garg presided over the function. Senior journalist Shri KG Suresh introduced Shri Dipok Barthakur and his outstanding work.
6. VICE PRESIDENT HAMID ANSARI UNVEILS VIVEKANANDA STATUE: Vice President of Bharat Mohd Hamid Ansari unveiled the life size bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda on September 11 in front of Kavadiayar Palace, the house of Travancore royal family.
Swami Atmapriyananda-Vice Chancellor of Vivekananda University of Sri Ramakrishna Mission Kolkata, Tranvancore King Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Verma, State Governor Shri Nikhil Kumar, Chief Minister Shri Oommen Chandy, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Shri Arun Jaitley, Shri P Parameshwaran- president of Vivekananda Kendram Kanyakumari, spoke on the occasion.
In his speech the Vice President Ansari said Swamiji was an Indian, Hindu and Vendathi. He wanted radical changes on all social fronts of the country. Swamiji could not accept spirituality without any mechanism to feed the poor. The statue which resembles the one installed at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari is made in Mahablipuram by sculptor Krishnamoorthy.
7. CATHOLICS IN GOA ARE CULTURALLY HINDUS: PARRIKAR: “India is a Hindu nation in the cultural sense. A Catholic in Goa is also Hindu culturally because his practices don’t match with Catholics in Brazil except in the religious aspect, a Goan Catholic’s way of thinking and practice matches a Hindu’s,” Parrikar said in an interview to New York Times’ India blog.
Parrikar heads a state where the Catholic population is just under 30 percent of its 1.5 million population. The BJP fielded an unprecedented eight Catholic candidates out of the 24 assembly seats the party contested.
The 57-year-old Chief Minister said he was a “perfect Hindu” but added that it was his personal faith and that “it has nothing to do with government”. Parrikar took pains to distinguish Hindu as a cultural rather than a religious term.
The Chief Minister is a former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumnus and is known for his hands-on style of governance. This is his third stint as chief minister of the state.
8. AGNI-V MISSILE SUCCESSFULLY TEST LAUNCHED: Bharat on September 15 conducted a second test flight of its indigenously developed nuclear- capable 'Agni-V' long-range ballistic missile, which has a strike range of more than 5000 km, from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast.
The surface-to-surface missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne, witnessed an 'auto launch' and detail results of the trial will be known after thorough analyses of all data retrieved from different radars and network systems. Officials said.
The indigenously developed missile Agni-V is capable of striking a range of more than 5000 km. It is about 17 meter long and 2 metres wide with launch weight of around 50 tonnes.
Unlike other missiles of indigenously built Agni series, 'AGNI-V' is the most advanced version having some new technologies incorporated in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine. The high speed onboard computer and fault tolerant software guided the missile flawlessly, said a defence official.
In the Agni series, Bharat at present has Agni-1 with 700 km range, Agni-2 with 2000 km range, Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2500 km to more than 3500 range.
9. RSS USES SOCIAL MEDIA TO RECRUIT CADRE IN CITIES: Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are taking recourse to social media networks to connect with the young and find potential recruits. This effort on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, coupled with an option for potential members to register on the RSS website, seems to be producing results. “The argument that young people are not joining RSS is not true. Youth wants to join RSS and that is why they are registering online,” said Manmohan Vaidya, who oversees media relations at RSS. “The people who are joining the organization through online registrations are in the age group of 25-40 years and most of them want to be involved in social work. They think that they can contribute to the society through an organization like the RSS.”
At the RSS, it started as an experiment on 24 October last year when its chief Mohan Bhagwat delivered his annual speech on Vijay Dashmi and senior members of the organizations used various social networks to inform its cadre and people in advance about the speech.
The experiment clicked and the total number of registration from 24 October to 6 November was 1,800. Before the annual speech of Bhagwat, online registrations from 1 October to 23 October numbered 494.
“Since people are changing with time, we also have to change ourselves accordingly.” said Surendra Jain, national secretary of VHP. Praveen Togadia, the international working president of VHP, is an active user of both Facebook and Twitter, said Jain.
10. 1,100-YEAR-OLD PALA DYNASTY TEMPLE UNEARTHED IN DINAJPUR: Archaeologists from Jahangirnagar University (JU) have excavated an ancient Hindu temple at Belwa village of Ghoraghat upazila in Dinajpur. The massive brick structure has been identified as a Hindu temple from the Pala dynasty. The chief of the project, Professor Syed Mohammad Kamrul, told journalists that the excavated site was under threat of destruction.
Swadhin Sen, associate professor of archaeology at JU, said the temple, approximately 1,100-years-old, was a major archaeological discovery in Bangladesh. Among the three carvings that have been identified are the pedestal of the Brahmanic sun God Surya, a fragment of the Gada (mace) depicted in the hand of the Hindu God Vishnu, and a fragment of a Visnupatta (a type of dedicatory plaque used to worship Vishnu).
A miniature bronze statue of Ganesha has also been found, said Swadhin Sen. "The worship of these three Gods - Surya, Vishnu and Ganesha - has been attested by these evidences. This is quite unique in the context of undivided Bengal,"
11. 84 KOSI PARIKRAMA YATRA CONCLUDES ON SCHEDULE: The 84 Kosi Parikrama Yatra of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) concluded as per the schedule on September 13 at Makhora Village, about 40 km from Ayodhya, from where it had began on August 25. As usual the administration’s atrocities continued and 40 saints were arrested from Makhora. However some saints performed the havan there. Later a havan was also performed at Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya on September 13.
Though the Uttar Pradesh government adopted all means to prevent the Rambhaktas and the saints joining the Yatra and created barricades on the Parikrama route as well as arrested the devotees, the administration failed to curb the zeal and devotion of the Rambhaktas.
During the entire Yatra more than 3,700 saints, who joined the Yatra from different parts of the country, were arrested at different places. Majority of them were arrested while entering Uttar Pradesh, but a few somehow successfully joined the Yatra and were arrested while conducting the Yatra itself.
12. UNIVERSAL ONENESS DAY 2013 IN MUMBAI: Vishva Adhyayan Kendra (VAK) Mumbai and Maharashtra Educational Trust (MET) jointly organized Universal Oneness Day function on 30th August 2013.
Keynote speech was delivered by noted thought leader Mr. Sandeep Waslekar on “Making Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam a living reality”. Other dignitaries present were Mr. Matan Zameer Deputy Chief of Mission at Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai, Mr. Pankaj Bhujbal Honorary Secretary MET and Mr. Satish Agarwal CMD Kissan Group of Industries.
Mr. Sanjay Kelapure, President VAK welcomed all in the gathering. Mr. Zameer in his speech mentioned the plight of Jews as they were persecuted practically all over the world with India being exceptionally empatheticfor nearly 2000 years ordeal till their own homeland Israel came into being. In his speech, Sandeep Waslekar wondered why our entrepreneurs and industrial leaders are unable to see the obvious relationship between scientific research and prosperity. He quoted examples from Israel and China to further elaborate how research activities are helping them generate wealth and improve the quality of life.
13. 5K RUN FOR BHUTANESE CAUSE: In August, 2013 a 5K Run was organized by over 20 high school students from 5 high schools at Roswell Park in Roswell, New Mexico, USA, the first such run for Sewa International worldwide. Around 250 runners participated in this run and the young Sewa volunteers were able to raise around $11,000 by putting together 1200 volunteer hours for Bhutanese community. The raised funds will be used for health camps/ school supplies and other activities for Bhutanese community. Varun Ballari led the team of organizers of the run.
14. DR HR VISHWAS GETS BALA SAHITYA PURASKAR-2013: Noted Samskrit scholar and Samsktit Bharati’s Akhil Bharatiya Prashikshana Pramukh , Dr HR Vishwas will receive reputed Kendra Sahitya Academy’s ‘Bala Sahitya Puraskar’ award for the year 2013.
Dr Vishwas will receive this award in a programme at Panaji of Goa on November 15th. The award includes a cash prize worth Rs 50,000.
In 2010, Dr Vishwas was awarded the Kendra Sahitya Academy Award for Translation. He received this award for translating well known litterateur Dr SL Bhairappa’s most debated Kannada novel ‘Avarana’ to Samskrit.
15. ISRO UNVEILS ORBITER FOR MARS MISSION, LAUNCH IN OCT-NOV: Bharat's upcoming Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) seeks to reveal whether there is methane, considered a "precursor chemical" for life, on the Red Planet, key officials behind the ambitious venture said on September 11.
A Methane Sensor, one of the five payloads (scientific instruments) onboard the spacecraft, would look to detect the presence of the gas, MOM Project Director Arunan S said. He said the sensor was aimed at understanding whether life existed on Mars or if it would have life in future.
16. MARTYRS’ DAY OBSERVED IN JAMMU: Displaced Kashmiri Pandits observed Martyrs’ Day on September 14 in Jammu, to pay homage to Tikalal Taploo, a prominent community leader who was gunned down by militants in Srinagar in 1989. Several organisations paid tributes to the leader and thousands of other people who fell victims to bullets of terrorists in the past two decades of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.A demonstration was organised by Joint Forum of Kashmiri Pandit Organisation. Tough action was demanded against the separatist elements in the state who are openly propagating secession from Bharat.
17. TULSI BEAD PRODUCTION GETS A TECHNICAL LIFT FROM IIT: A technical design intervention by the Rural Technology center of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has helped about 2000 rural women in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan engaged in fabrication of tulsi malas , boost their production and earn a better livelihood by introducing advanced machinery.
Women could fabricate 30 to 40 tulsi malas with the old machines and make a profit between Rs.60- Rs.80 per day. They were facing problems of low production and physical pain while working on these machines.
Sita Ram Gupta, executive director of the Lupin Foundation who collaborated with IIT, points out that the new machines are capable of enhancing the production of tulsi malas four-fold and provide a comfortable posture for operating them. With each machine, women are now able to prepare beads for 200 to 250 malas everyday and fabricate the final product into different designs.
18. SEAT FOR SIKH AND HINDU NATIONALS IN AFGHAN PARLIAMENT: President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai on 4 September 2013 approved, through a legislative decree, a special seat allocated for Sikh and Hindu Afghan Nationals in the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament.
The decree further adds that the amendments to the Election Law that came into force upon signature by the President. It would be published along with the relevant Cabinet resolution in the official gazette.
19. BHARAT SPEAKS 780 LANGUAGES, 220 LOST IN LAST 50 YEARS: No one has ever doubted that Bharat is home to a huge variety of languages. A new study, the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, says that the official number, 122, is far lower than the 780 that it counted and another 100 that its authors suspect exist.
The survey, which was conducted over the past four years by 3,000 volunteers and staff of the Bhasha Research & Publication Centre also concludes that 220 Bharatiya languages have disappeared in the last 50 years, and that another 150 could vanish in the next half century as speakers die and their children fail to learn their ancestral tongues.
The 35,000-page survey is being released in 50 volumes, the first of which appeared on Sept. 5 to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Bharatiya philosopher Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, who was also the country’s second president. The last one is scheduled to come out in December 2014.
Ganesh Devy, who supervised the project, said this is the first comprehensive survey of Bharatiya languages that anyone has conducted since Irish linguistic scholar George Grierson noted the existence of 364 languages between 1894 and 1928.
There is a major reason for the disparity in the government’s number of languages versus what the survey found: the government does not count languages that fewer than 10,000 people speak. Devy and his volunteers on the other hand combed the country to find languages such as Chaimal in Tripura, which is spoken by just 4 or 5 people.
20. ADI BADRI TO GET HERITAGE TAG FOR TREASURE TROVE: Revered as the starting point of the Saraswati River, the Adi Badri Temple in the foothills of the Sivalik Hills in Yamunanagar in Haryana is all set to get the tag of “national heritage”.
After nine years of extensive excavation at the site, which has yielded important findings — including a monastery, Buddha statue, pottery, pieces of carved slabs and several artefacts, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has proposed to bring it under its wing. The ASI feels the site has to be protected as much remains to be unearthed from the spot.
A picturesque site framed by hillocks and a major tourist attraction, Adi Badri Temple site is adorned with the late medieval temples of Adi Badri-Narayana, Sri Kedarnath and Mantra Devi.
21. SEEMA TAMTA AWARDED PHD ON SHRI GURUJI: Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, Srinagar (Garhwal) recently awarded a Ph.D. degree to Seema Tamta on ‘Sociological analysis of Social Philosophy of RSS second Sarsanghachalak Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar’. Talking about her research Seema said the visionary philosophy of Shri Guruji provided solutions to many social issues confronting the society and gave birth to a new transformation process that is still relevant in the changing social and cultural milieu of Bharat. With this view an attempt has been made to analyse the thoughts, ideology and philosophy of Shri Guruji from a sociological point of view.
22. Bharatiya is WHO’s regional director: After a gap of over four decades, a Bharatiya has bagged the top post of the WHO South-East Asia Region at an election held on September 12 during the meeting of the Health Ministers of the 11 countries from the region. This is for the first time that any woman has been nominated to this post in the region.A former IAS officer, Poonam Khetrapal Singh who is presently an advisor, (international health) in the Union Health Ministry has also till recently held the post of the deputy regional director with the WHO South-East Asia Region from 2000 to 2013.
23. SHYAM ACHARYA HONOURED WITH BAPURAO LELE AWARD: Senior journalist of Jaipur Shri Shyam Acharya was felicitated with Bapurao Lele Patrakarita Award in New Delhi on August 31. The Asharani Vohra women award went to Nivedita Kandekar while the photographer award was presented to Shri Devendra Rawat. The youth award instated in the memory of Shrikant Joshi was presented to Shri Amrit Joshi.
Senior BJP leader Shri LK Advani and RSS Sahsarkaryavah Dr Krishna Gopal felicitated the awardees.
24. US PRESIDENT NAMES PIO TO KEY POST: US President Barack Obama has nominated Bharatiya-American Puneet Talwar as assistant secretary of state for political military affairs, a top diplomatic post. Talwar was Obama's top advisor on the Middle East region for over four years.
He is the second Bharatiya-American to be nominated as the assistant secretary position in the state department. In July, Nisha Desai Biswal was nominated as the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia.
25. AMERICAN HINDU ORGANISATIONS HELP PAKISTANI HINDU REFUGEES: Prominent Hindu organisations of America, including the World Hindu Council of America, Hindu American Foundation (HAF), United States Sindhi Alliance, have donated twenty five military grade tents to Pakistani Hindu refugees based in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan in Bharat. The tents were donated as a part of nationwide project in USA coordinated by an alliance of various Hindu organisations under project ‘Pakistani Hindu Refugee Relief’.
These Hindu refugees have arrived from Pakistan after facing grave human rights violation. In late 2012, a total of two hundred and forty refugees arrived from Pakistan’s Sindh province, recently around 500-700 refugees arrived from Pakistan comprising mainly women and children.
In the past, Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has organised a medical camp in Jodhpur while VHP of America donated groceries and tents. This project is being coordinated at local level with assistance from office bearers and volunteers of VHP, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Help Line.
26. GUJARAT GOVT ORGANISES BIGGEST GLOBAL SUMMIT ON AGRICULTURE: Gujarat Government organised a two day Agricultural Global Summit on September 8-9.
The first of its kind summit was attended by Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi along with Punjab Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal. Over 4,000 farmers from 29 States, two Union Territories and 542 districts attended the event to discuss, learn and exchange farming knowledge.
Apart from key political figures, the event also saw presence of experts from countries like South Asia, Denmark, Netherland and other African countries along with over 125 companies.
27. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Dr. Ram Vaidya sah samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will return to UK after finishing his tour to Caribbean countries.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills. ― Gautama Buddha
JAI SHREE RAM
A CRUSADE TO UPROOT THE FLESH TRADE
Ahmednagar based former ABVP activist Dr Girish Kulkarni rehabilitates over 900 sex workers ensuring respectable jobs for their 300 children
During the last four decades the Governments, both state and central, spent billions of rupees on rehabilitation of commercial sex workers. What is the result—mushrooming of red light areas and forced entry of minor girls into the trade! The government claims about 6.8 lakh registered sex workers in the country, but the NACO estimates this number to be more than 12 lakh. Amidst this number game Dr Girish Kulkarni of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra has successfully rehabilitated over 900 commercial sex workers and effectively curbed the entry of second generation into the trade. Twenty years back there were 900 sex workers operating from four streets of Ahemedngar, but today they remain just 150 and that too only in one street. Not surprisingly, 300 children of these women are today doing respectable jobs in state police and different government departments. Wedding of about 200 rescued girls has also been performed.
Normally, it is believed that prostitution is a one way traffic in which there is no U-turn. Of the many reasons, which block the U-turn, the most serious ones are the tight hold of brothel-keepers, the chain of beneficiaries who thrive on their labour and the inability to cope with the stigma attached to them by wider society.
In such circumstances even thinking about rehabilitation of these women is a herculean as well as life-threatening task. The topmost challenge is: what is the acceptable alternative, and how to provide protection from the people prospering from the earnings of such women? Anybody who dares to do it has to face the consequences. But Dr Girish Kulkarni took up this challenge 25 years ago and so far successfully rehabilitated over 900 such women through his Snehalaya. For it, he had to fight not only against the pimps, brothel-keepers but also against the highly influential businessmen, policemen and bureaucrats in the district.
Formed in 1989 to work for the Victims of Commercial and Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking (VCSE-T) in red light areas of Chitra, Bhagat and Mamta lanes in Ahmednagar, Snehalaya is today an outstanding example of how youth can make a difference in the lives of people. It created a history in 2010 when it secured the conviction of 20 highly influential persons of Ahmednagar, who sexually exploited a minor girl of 14 years. All 20 of them were sentenced to Double Life Imprisonment. Another similar case of a minor is pending in the court.
The output of Snehalaya’s persistent efforts is clearly visible. The sexually transmitted diseases (except HIV/AIDS) have almost disappeared and use of condoms in red light areas is 96 per cent, highest in the country. Similarly, during the last 20 years no child prostitute joined the trade. Apart from many other reasons, it can be attributed to relentless filing of cases against brothel keepers, pimps and procurers, and their successful convictions in the courts.
Thanks to Snehalaya the children of prostitutes are in a process of life-changing education creating a number of role models from the community. Some of the children got admissions in top schools of the city and proved their mettle in the results. About 300 of them have got quality jobs. Snehalaya also provides medical facilities and ensures rehabilitation for HIV+ women and children. It runs Balbhavans in 7 major slums of Ahmednagar and provides after-school coaching to nearly 2000 students. Apart from 150 abandoned infants, many unwed mothers, raped victims, widows have also been rehabilitated. Snehalaya’s upcoming Himmatgram project is going to prove a ray of hope for HIV victims and sex workers, who are being rehabilitated by providing vocational skills and employment. Snehalaya’s dedicated team of volunteers has devoted their lives for the betterment of these women. Perhaps this is the reason that noted film personality, Aamir Khan, on May 6, 2012, during his popular TV show Satyamev Jayate, appealed for help to Snehalaya in this fight.
Snehalaya has also motivated these women to start their own Self-Help Groups (SHG) in all red-light areas of the district. The most poignant testimony of Snehalaya’s empowerment efforts has come in the form of some outstanding milestones. Lata Pawar wrote the first autobiography of a prostitute in Marathi, while Sangeeta Shelar, a former prostitute, represented Snehalaya in the World AIDS Conference held in Mexico in 2008. Similarly, Kantabai Kale became one of Snehalaya’s trustees in the initial days itself and Meena Shinde is working as an honourary director.
A professor and well known crusader in the district, Dr Kulkarni has been an active worker of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) from 1983 to 1991. His concern for the plight of sexually exploited women was not sudden. As a young boy of 14 while attending tuition classes in a bylane known for prostitution, he heard some of the women yell out in pain, as their customers beat them up or the brothel-keepers inhumanly tortured them. “We always try to convince the prostitutes to leave this trade and start a new life. Though, it is a very tough decision to execute for so many reasons, we have inspired many of them to leave the profession,” he says.
Talking about the challenges he encountered, Dr Girish says, “Preparing a sex worker to live a respectable life is not an easy task. We have to start from de-addiction and then the habit of work is developed and vocational training is imparted. Then social acceptance also remains a big question. Sometimes circumstances disappointed and hurt me but most of the times they taught me a lot and influenced my life immensely.”
Of late, some of his students have also started working in various red light areas after completion of their education. What satisfies Dr Girish more is the fact that the society is slowly changing its orthodox attitude towards the women and children from red-light areas. The girls rescued from the flesh trade got good families and grooms for marriages.
When governments have failed in rehabilitation of the sex workers even after spending millions of rupees every year, these efforts of Dr Girish Kulkarni show the way how to efficiently eradicate the social evil and change the mindset of people.
(Snehalaya runs ‘Snehadhar’, a 24x7 helpline for all types of women in distress. The helpline no. is 09011363600) (Organiser, September 22, 2013)