How harrowing life can be for a woman without family support can be gauged from the plight of Mamta Devi, a resident of Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh. She lost her husband 10 years ago. Since then, she has been living a life of misery. Her husband’s employer Madan had offered them land to live on, but when Mamta’s husband died without having cleared his dues, Madan started pressurising Mamta to leave the land. Later, Mamta learnt that the land actually belonged to the state government.
Madan, as per Mamta, sent his goons and demolished Mamta’s house, but she was undaunted and vowed to fight on. She approached the local administrative authorities and following their intervention, was able to remain on her land. However, with her house destroyed, she found shelter in a shanty made up of tarpaulin sheets. Her makeshift shelter has had no roof, no walls, no doors, no water and no washroom for years. She has been living in this hellhole for the past nine years under constant threat of eviction from here too.
After visiting her house, we were intrigued by empty buckets being placed here and there. Later, we came to know that those buckets were there for collecting rainwater that keeps on gushing into Mamta’s house. The chances of the culprits who broke her house down being made to rebuild the house are vanishing with every passing day. Sewa Nyaya Utthan Foundation has tried to draw the attention of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan towards Mamta’s troubles and called for his intervention in providing her a proper residence, but nothing has been done yet.
As per Mamta, Madan and his goons did not stop at trying to drive her out of her home; they tried to destroy her livelihood too. The hooligans broke her only source of income: a sewing machine. Sewa Nyaya Utthan Foundation has gifted Mamta a brand new and modern sewing machine.
Her house is in such a dilapidated condition that it is next to impossible for her to go out for work. By presenting her with a sewing machine, the foundation ensured that she had something to work with right away and some means to piece together her life.
When one of our team members reached Mamta with the sewing machine, she nearly cried out of happiness. It is this happiness on the faces of the downtrodden that keeps us going and is our ultimate prize. We have pledged to support Mamta in the future as well. Do support us so that we can save more people like Mamta from a life of pain, fear and despair.
Meanwhile, our struggle to get her a proper house, remains.
Talks of communal unity and secularism sound all very well in the confines of air-conditioned rooms and over a cup of tea. Away from that sanitised environment, on the dusty lanes and bylanes of the country, however, the practicability of those ‘exalted’ ideas takes a massive beating. Religious hatred is a frightening reality on the ground, and those who are at the wrong end of it have a much bitter tale to tell than what the armchair opinion-makers would want us to believe sitting in their ivory towers.
Seventeen-year-old Ravi, a Dalit boy from Haryana, was one such victim of religious hatred. His mistake: He dared to befriend a girl named Mubeen.
Once, Ravi had gone along with his friend to wish Mubeen on New Year. Hours passed and Ravi seemed to be taking more time than usual at Mubeen’s place. His family members waited till morning, and when Ravi still did not return, they got really worried. They started searching for him. After considerable efforts, they finally found Ravi, but not exactly in a safe and sound condition. Ravi was lying on the road and bleeding profusely. His relatives quickly arranged for a private vehicle and rushed him to the nearest hospital.
The police revealed that while Ravi was waiting for Mubeen, he was attacked by her kin. Ravi cried for help, but his friend ran away in fear, leaving Ravi at the mercy of an irate mob. The mob beat Ravi mercilessly and left him to die on the road in a pool of blood. Ravi finally succumbed to his injuries.
You can read a ground report on the case by one of our co-founders Swati Goel Sharma here.
Ravi’s demise came as a bolt from the blue for his family. They had taken a loan of Rs 1 lakh for Ravi’s hospitalisation and treatment. The loan was taken on a significant monthly interest.
Ravi could not be saved, and if the loss of a loved one was not enough, there was also the spectre of creditors coming hunting for money. A family that barely managed to meet its basic needs could not fathom how to pay back the loan that it had taken.
Ravi’s case received substantial media attention, but still, could not generate any significant help from the wider society. That is unless we stepped in. We immediately transferred Rs 1 lakh to Ravi’s family. This allowed the family to clear its debts, for which Ravi’s father Vedpal never ceases to thank us.
True, it is beyond the power of anybody to bring Ravi back, and that nothing would be balm enough for the loss that Ravi’s family had suffered, but we at least could give his grieving family a shoulder to cry on. Unfortunately, there are people and organisations who fleece these vulnerable sections of society in the name of helping them. We at Sewa Nyaya Utthan Foundation have always been wary of such wicked designs and have gone the distance in helping those whom we meet or those who approach us.