Dr Bharat Vatwani is one of the two Indians who has been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award this year for his work with mentally ill street people. Vatwani is a psychiatrist based out of Mumbai and he set established a foundation called Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation at Karjat also in Maharashtra, where he aims to find, restore and reunite, the mentally ill destitutes back with their families.
The organisation was started in 1989 by Vatwani and his wife Smitha, and since the inception of the organisation have reunited more than 2,000 people with their families. Between 2006 to 2011, they reunited more than a thousand such people with their families. “Most of the destitutes were from UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka, MP, West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Six people were reconnected with their family in Nepal,” says Vatwani in an interview to The Indian Express.
Vatwani had chanced upon a young man with unkempt long hair who was drinking dirty water from the roadside gutter. It was this sight that moved him and he decided to take care of the young man and other people like him. “After treating the boy, I was shocked to learn of his identity. He was a BSc graduate with a diploma in medical laboratory technology and his father was a superintendent in Andhra Pradesh,” recalls Vatwani. He helped the young lad who was suffering from schizophrenia to reunite with his family and since then he has reached out to innumerable such people.