Shackles Broken.. Free Birds Fly High…!

I met Mr. Pravin Patkar in the course of my work. I had heard of him but had not met him before January 2007. After our meeting he sent mails regularly about his work. The latest one is reproduced below and it is as inspiring as his other mails. Very inspiring. He writes…..

The Raan Pakhare (the Wild Birds) children make it again! Children of bonded tribals bag championship. Now represent the State at nationals . Intermittently I keep giving you some updates on my residential school for the tribal children (children of ex trafficked bonded labour from coastal Maharashtra). The latest result for the 10th std Board’s exam was 93% of passing which was in itself a record in the Konkan region. Last week the students below 14 years from my school were in Mumbai for the finals of Kabaddi. All the 10 players in the team representing the Raigad district team for the state level competitions were from my school. Guess what? They were declared the champions! It was an open competition. Not restricted to tribal schools, not limited to just schools either! All open!! Now they will represent the Maharashtra State for the national sports championship. Presently they will be going to Yewatmal for the practice round. These are the children of the bonded tribals (declared by Govt of India as ‘primitive tribes’ from amongst the scheduled tribes of India) who used to be trafficked for making charcoal to the illegal charcoal making kilns in the forests of the Western ghats.

I requested Mr. Patkar for his consent to post our correspondence on my blog, he answered…..

“Of course you have my consent. Unfortunately the organization under which this Ashramshala runs does not have a website. I am the Founder & Managing Trustee. there are many stories to the credit of this residential school. It bagged the Best Ashramshala Award of Rs. 2,50,000/- of Maharashtra Govt for the year 2005-6 in the Mumbai, Thane, Pune, regions.In 2004 its 3 students were selected to represent the state at the national games. It has secured the sports championship for 7 out of last 10 years in the Konkan region in open school categories. In 2007 one of our students was the Champion in Javeline throw and was selected for the selection round for the Olympics.The first batch of the students appearing for Boards exam (i.e. 10th) secured 78% of success. The batch of the following year secured 93% success.A wall of the school building is full of shields, cups and citations. The modest school building in the forest of Pen tahsil has come up with self help. No government funds grants have so far been used for the construction of the building. The Bharat Petroleum Corpn Ltd sponsored the construction of three rooms in 2006. Many of the children of these annually bonded labour used to die of snake & scorpion bites, malaria, diarrhoea, other deficiency and communicable diseases in the forests of western ghats and due to sheer exhaustion of walking back in the hot summer of May early June . Parents used to bury them by the side of the road and continue walking back home. I remember many children used to get burnt as to protect themselves against the freezing cold of the nights they used to go closer to the fire of the kiln in the sleep.”

Mr. Patkar’s work makes me feel both happy and sad. Happy for the children, and sad realizing that I have done precious little for the society. Your work is inspiring Mr. Patkar and I promise to do my little bit to repay the debt of the society.