DoCC Diary – Prama Datta, PGPM 2019
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa
The ethos of S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai is built around the idea of developing socially sensitive leaders for tomorrow. For the past 25 years, the course on Development of Corporate Citizenship (DoCC) has been an integral part of the institution’s curriculum for enhancing participant’s exposure towards the underprivileged segments of the society. This course provides opportunities for its participants to re-evaluate their understandings of management education and ideate on sustainable solutions that can help in solving diverse existential issues.
This year, as a part of the PGPM Batch of 2019, I got a chance to visit ‘Anandwan ‘– ‘Forest of Bliss’. Five kilometres from Warora in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra, this community rehabilitation centre was started by Baba Amte in 1949. From what started as a Leprosy Service Society, Anandwan, today, has become a centre for the holistic development of underprivileged. Ranging from areas of healthcare, education, livelihood, rehabilitation to agriculture and environmental sustainability – the establishment has branched out into multiple avenues of social upliftment.
After the demise of Baba Amte, ‘Anandwan’ is now being developed and looked after by his sons Dr.Vikas Amte and Dr. Prakash Amte. Following their footsteps, Dr. Vikas Amte’s daughter and son in Law, Sheetal and Gautam are also actively associated with this community. Gautam, an alumnus of SPJIMR, Mumbai, helped the PGPM participants in understanding the dynamics of the Ashram. He explained in details about the challenges and difficulties faced by the inhabitants and the community. We got a chance to spend time with the locals, understand how the whole centre is working towards fighting the social stigma of ‘Leprosy’ and at the same time every inhabitant of the Ashram is taking up respectable livelihoods to create a sustainable future for themselves.
It might be a surprise to a lot of people but ‘Leprosy’ or ‘Maharog’ is not a contagious disease. If diagnosed at an early stage, effective medication and care can completely cure a leprosy patient. Yet, the disease has been successful in terrorising people from all parts of the country and across cultures. We might have moved away from holding the individual’s bad deeds responsible for this disease and maybe not burning them alive, but it is beyond imagination for most of the patient’s families to accept them back, even after being cured completely. At Anandwan, we met several such Leprosy patients, who are completely cured but still have not met their families for years. For someone who has been abandoned by their own, these patients welcomed us with open arms. The warmth and respect in their eyes and hope for a better future in their heart left us at a loss of words.
“Give them Chance, not Charity” As Baba Amte used to say, every individual in this community shows extreme enthusiasm to contribute back to the ashram. Regardless of their age or inabilities, every inhabitant of Anandwan participates in diverse kinds of livelihood activities. Self-Reliance is given top priority by every person staying at the Ashram.
Something else that made the environment at Anandwan so consuming was the love. Love not only for humans but also for mother earth. Maintaining cleanliness is like an unspoken culture in this community. Even the hospitals, schools and kitchens were impeccably clean, to an extent which is rare to find in the most developed cities. In the brief time we spent there, we also started inculcating their practices of taking care of our surroundings by saving water and being mindful about disposing of our wastes.
Baba Amte started ‘Anandwan’ with six leprosy patients and today the count has crossed thousands. Everybody lives here like a big family, who eats together, lives together and stands by each other in their times of joy and sadness. It gives me so much happiness and sadness to realise where Anandwan has reached today. Happy to see how with so less available resources the society has developed and deployed the most sustainable solutions. With almost no skilled manpower, this centre has trained and nurtured talents from within. But it also breaks my heart to realise that we need still need places like ‘Anandwan’. Not one but many.
Sitting in the comfort of our homes, we aim to become the world’s largest economy. Maybe intentionally putting our social responsibilities on organisations like ‘Anandwan’. Development of a country starts with the upliftment of its darkest corners. Anandwan gave us a glimpse of how competent each individual can be regardless of their limitations. We need to recognise this fact and join hands in creating a platform for inclusion. Only then we would be able to create a progressive society free of biases and prejudices.