In Nagpur, they are children of a lesser god no more

Nagpur, July 30 (IANS) As Pinki and Shweta, children of sex-workers, conduct health check-up camps and run errands in the hostel they live in, no dark secret from the past dares to cast a shadow on their future.
Perhaps the only facility of its kind in India, Nagpur’s Vimlashram is home to some 40 children of commercial sex workers operating in the city’s red-light area.
The children of Vimlashram were picked up from the so-called ‘alleys of sin’ – the red-light area of Nagpur, curiously called Ganga Jamuna, about 860 km east of Mumbai.
Today they are getting an education and employment. Pinki and Shweta are studying in a social work college in the city. Another girl here is waiting for her polytechnic diploma and a boy here is eyeing a degree in commerce.
This service for the hapless children started in the early 1980s as an offshoot of a three-pronged effort to save the sex workers from losing their only possible means of survival, end the pernicious brothel system in which minor girls are forced into prostitution and ensure that the activities in the red light area do not cause any nuisance to the mainstream society around it.
The ‘save-the-prostitutes’ mission was initiated by former MP Jambuvantrao Dhote as an answer to the ‘Ganga-Jamuna hatao’ agitation (close down the red light area) launched by the citizens of the adjoining neighbourhood.
On Dhote’s entreaty, Ram Ingole and Krishnakumar Kusum then studied the problems of prostitutes, the prospect of their rehabilitation into mainstream society by providing them alternative means of livelihood and ways to end the trafficking of women.
‘By setting up ‘Amrapali Sangathan’, an organisation of sex workers and their friends, we succeeded in ending the exploitative brothel system and keeping pimps at bay for eight years during which not a single prostitute was allowed to enter the red light area,’ Ingole told IANS.
However, efforts to rehabilitate a few willing sex workers by finding some dignified modes of self-employment for them failed except in a couple of cases.
With Ingole concentrating on saving the children of prostitutes from the scourge of the oldest profession, the brothel system managed to return to the red light area.
Vimlashram, set up initially in a rented accommodation with the help of a few friends, has now been shifted to a three-storey building that the children can call their own, thanks to liberal financial support of the Rotary Club, Sai Seva Samiti and some other social organisations and individual donors like former MP Datta Meghe.
Arti, a final year student of Datta Meghe’s Polytechnic in Nagpur and one of the senior-most inmates of Vimlashram, looks after the administration side.
The younger ones, studying in different stages of school down to nursery level, follow in the footsteps of their seniors – learning to keep themselves clean and tidy, helping the needy and doing their homework.
‘The children must become sensitive to the miseries of the less fortunate and be helpful to them,’ says Ingole.
In order to inculcate the spirit of social service in them, Ingole involves them in service projects for slum and street-children, lepers and beggars.
While the younger children of Vimlashram are growing up merrily, the senior ones are focused on laying down the foundation of Ingole’s ambitious project of setting up a residential school for the children of quarry workers in nearby Panchgaon.
Ingole first started a weekend school for the children who would hang around in utter neglect near the quarries as their parents worked inside them. With quarry workers responding slowly but positively, he converted it into a daily school.
‘But I soon realised that our effort was largely wasted as the quarry workers hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa go to their native place thrice a year causing many long breaks in their children’s schooling. A residential school would be a solution to this problem,’ he reasons.
© 2006 Indo-Asian News Service
Nagpur, July 30 (IANS) As Pinki and Shweta, children of sex-workers, conduct health check-up camps and run errands in the hostel they live in, no dark secret from the past dares to cast a shadow on their future.
Perhaps the only facility of its kind in India, Nagpur’s Vimlashram is home to some 40 children of commercial sex workers operating in the city’s red-light area.
The children of Vimlashram were picked up from the so-called ‘alleys of sin’ – the red-light area of Nagpur, curiously called Ganga Jamuna, about 860 km east of Mumbai.
Today they are getting an education and employment. Pinki and Shweta are studying in a social work college in the city. Another girl here is waiting for her polytechnic diploma and a boy here is eyeing a degree in commerce.
This service for the hapless children started in the early 1980s as an offshoot of a three-pronged effort to save the sex workers from losing their only possible means of survival, end the pernicious brothel system in which minor girls are forced into prostitution and ensure that the activities in the red light area do not cause any nuisance to the mainstream society around it.
The ‘save-the-prostitutes’ mission was initiated by former MP Jambuvantrao Dhote as an answer to the ‘Ganga-Jamuna hatao’ agitation (close down the red light area) launched by the citizens of the adjoining neighbourhood.
On Dhote’s entreaty, Ram Ingole and Krishnakumar Kusum then studied the problems of prostitutes, the prospect of their rehabilitation into mainstream society by providing them alternative means of livelihood and ways to end the trafficking of women.
‘By setting up ‘Amrapali Sangathan’, an organisation of sex workers and their friends, we succeeded in ending the exploitative brothel system and keeping pimps at bay for eight years during which not a single prostitute was allowed to enter the red light area,’ Ingole told IANS.
However, efforts to rehabilitate a few willing sex workers by finding some dignified modes of self-employment for them failed except in a couple of cases.
With Ingole concentrating on saving the children of prostitutes from the scourge of the oldest profession, the brothel system managed to return to the red light area.
Vimlashram, set up initially in a rented accommodation with the help of a few friends, has now been shifted to a three-storey building that the children can call their own, thanks to liberal financial support of the Rotary Club, Sai Seva Samiti and some other social organisations and individual donors like former MP Datta Meghe.
Arti, a final year student of Datta Meghe’s Polytechnic in Nagpur and one of the senior-most inmates of Vimlashram, looks after the administration side.
The younger ones, studying in different stages of school down to nursery level, follow in the footsteps of their seniors – learning to keep themselves clean and tidy, helping the needy and doing their homework.
‘The children must become sensitive to the miseries of the less fortunate and be helpful to them,’ says Ingole.
In order to inculcate the spirit of social service in them, Ingole involves them in service projects for slum and street-children, lepers and beggars.
While the younger children of Vimlashram are growing up merrily, the senior ones are focused on laying down the foundation of Ingole’s ambitious project of setting up a residential school for the children of quarry workers in nearby Panchgaon.
Ingole first started a weekend school for the children who would hang around in utter neglect near the quarries as their parents worked inside them. With quarry workers responding slowly but positively, he converted it into a daily school.
‘But I soon realised that our effort was largely wasted as the quarry workers hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa go to their native place thrice a year causing many long breaks in their children’s schooling. A residential school would be a solution to this problem,’ he reasons.
© 2006 Indo-Asian News Service

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