2014State of Governance

For the Sake of Destitute

Not all get the kind of existence, normally akin to be called ‘decent’. We know celebrities running into penury or catwalk favourites like Gitanjali Nagpal found living in squalor on Delhi’s streets after drug related problems and having no one to take care of her. The cases are numerous, a simple walk on the capital’s streets could give the glance of misery of paupers and many others, who were once fitted well in the material world, survived there for years, but eventually distanced due to emotional or other odd conditional jolts.

The Earth Saviours Foundation is a non-profit organisation, working for the old, mentally and physically disabled, poor children and anyone who has no one to support. Its headquarters, New Delhi which shelters the destitutes was running well in Vasant Kunj. But after a gruesome fire and loss of lives and assets, it had to move to Rangpuri Pahadi, where it has makeshift arrangements for more than 250 inmates.

These inmates included those, who were quite well off but fell to destitution under adverse circumstances through family disputes or other unfortunate reasons. Ravi Kalra is the Founder and President of this charitable organisation, who had to choose between family and his dedication to social service. He chose the latter. After six futile attempts, which crashed due to lack of funds and support, Ravi’s dream came true in 2008, when he started The Earth Saviour Foundation.

“I would go to the streets, find people who had been left by their families to fend for themselves; and get them to the centre. Many of them were senior citizens who resorted to begging. They had not washed for months, were starving and had maggots all over them. We gave them first aid, bathed them, provided them with food and shelter,” says Ravi, who named the shelter as Gurukul.

Ravi expanded his horizon and started getting orphans, rape victims, HIV positive people and mentally challenged adults to Gurukul. To manifest his dedication to humane cause, he also has plan to build a temple of humanity that will house more than 2,000 people.

The cases are numerous, a simple walk on the capital’s streets could give the glance of misery of paupers and many others, who were once part of the mainstream but eventually distanced due to emotional or other odd conditional jolts.

His initiative has been supported by his own means and donations bz a few individuals and institutions – the government has shown only the timid response for the cause as well as the charitable work of Foundation. Surveys reveal that more than 10 lakh people are without shelter or basic protection of life and dignity in the capital and nearby NCR towns – that shows there is a general sense of apathy for the whole issues related to ‘destitution’, alas!

When this writer visited the Gurukul in a late afternoon of August, few inmates were found busy in Gurukul’s activities, others were either talking in groups or simply resting. But the commonness of them was their eagerness to share what they faced earlier and how they are leading a new life in this Gurukul.

Pranab Roy is one of them. An alumnus of IIMA of 1970 MBA batch and Fellow of AICWA, he worked in some leading MNC companies as financial controller and director. Distorted through disputes in family and investment losses, one day he called on the number of Gurukul and took the train from Bangalore.

Unlike most of other inmates, he is perfectly fine with his skills and understanding – genuinely, he should have been in limelight for better reasons than living an existence on the fringe. An avid admirer of the writings of Nirad C Chaudhuri, Tagore and Jefferson, Roy has no views on family life, albeit he still desires to get back into consultancy domain. Then he was reading a book and shared how much he misses reading newspapers in the morning – he named all prominent papers among his favourites and requested to be provided the copies of INCLUSION and other reading material. Ironically, unlike Jefferson – he is not for ‘pursuits of happiness’!

Inder Kaur is sixty-nine year old, an affectionate lady who reminds the typical face of a grandmother, came there eight days back from Ludhiana – she has two daughters, but not even one of them sensible enough to take care of her in old age. Although she misses them but doesn’t want to be back in family so soon, instead she yearns to visit the place of her niece who is living in Sahadara.

The camp of The Earth Saviours Foundation called Gurukul in Rangpuri Pahadi (near Vasant Kunj, New Delhi) shelters around 250 destitute including old, poor children, ailing, drug addicted, violence suffering, sexually exploited and HIV affected inmates. Although facing acute shortage of basic facilities, the effort per se is commendable and shows how far behind is the Social Security support structure in India.

Pushpa in her early forties came here only a day ago and was returning to her family the next day. Her case is little benign, as family shown responsiveness after a brief lapse of harmony. Shiv Kumar, a seventy-five old former mill worker has been living with this Gurukul for last six years and he wishes to stay here till end of life – as he has no incentive to go back to his sons, who allegedly kept him in a locked room for six months.

Raj Kumar, a former auto driver came here five months back – with a road accident, he lost the normalcy in life and landed here after living on street in dire conditions for months. Aaagyan Kaur – an eighty-five year old lady, who earlier was a handicraft artist, recalls the pain of treatment she met from family and the days of partition in 1947. She has three sons and a daughter.

Unlike her daughter, both the sons are in a condition to take care of her but they are indifferent even when knowing where their mother is living now. Kaur shares how she took care of a ‘Sabun ki tikki’ (a slice of soap) for over seven decades before losing it recently. For her, that was an inherited asset from family – and for others in family or outside, this might value nothing!

A report of Sunday Times (2nd March 2014, Lord Swraj Paul answers abandoned cousin’s call) highlighted the grim plight of Ajay Kumar Aggarwal, who allegedly was abandoned by his family after an accident in Solan, received a call with the help of Gurukul from his billionaire cousin, Lord Swaraj Paul. That made decisive impact in his life.

Amidst the gloom, the hope is not entirely on wane – as many of those who come here, later get united with the family or after normalcy in their state of mind and health, they also start something of their own. Probably this is the best service, The Foundation is offering to the people, who are really in need of help and care.

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