— Seventeen-year-old Revati (name changed) ran away from her home in a small hamlet in Pune district’s Manchar. Her father, a truck driver, used to abuse her physically, and he also refused to let her continue her studies. Revati scored 86 per cent in Std X, but her father didn’t allow her to pursue higher studies. When she finally left home and filed a police complaint, she was sent to the Child Welfare Committee. After examining her case, the committee sent her to the Bal Griha run by the Maharshi Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha. “I am extremely happy here,” says Revati, who is now in Class XII.
— Fifteen-year-old Nina (name changed), an orphan, has been living at the Sanstha’s Bal Griha for the last five years. She admits that she prefers to take only short vacations with her grandmother, during which she misses the ‘home’, where she has a bunch of great friends.
Revati and Nina are among the 70 girls who have made the Bal Griha, run by the Maharshi Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha, their home. Despite the trying circumstances under which they came to the home, they managed to adjust and start making friends within a couple of months, said Sumitra Bhandari, the superintendent.
Set up in 1896 by social worker and Bharat Ratna awardee Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve to provide a shelter for destitute women, the Sanstha runs over 60 educational institutes and other units.
Girls who stay at Bal Griha are between 10 and 18 years of age, and they continue their studies here. “We have seen so many girls perform well in academics and graduate from various disciplines from our campus,” said Bhandari.
While Vandana Saste and Vaishali Shetye, the matrons at Bal Griha, stay with the girls round the clock, case workers Punam Potphode and Kumudini Ranjane are involved in their overall development. “Once the girls are sent here by the Child Welfare Committee, we talk to them, understand their problems and then let them mingle with others. The matrons inform us if there are any other developments when we are not present,” said Potphode.
Before the girls go to school every morning, their attendance is marked via a bio-metric system, and the same is done after they return from sports or other extra curricular activities in the evening. Bal Griha has six cooks to provide wholesome meals to the girls, said Ranjane.
Potphode admitted that sometimes, there were “petty fights” among the girls, but monitors have been appointed to resolve them. “The committee of girls includes a grievance monitor, cleanliness monitor, food monitor and others to
resolve their own problems,” she said.
The girls are allowed to make a call on the third Saturday of each month. “In some cases, we allow them to make a call if the girls feel like speaking to their family members,” said Potphode.
While the government provides a grant of Rs 1,250 per girl each month, the amount spent to take care of them is much higher, said Bal Griha authorities, adding they have to raise their own funds.