The Chief Guest at our regular Club Meeting of Wednesday 3rd October 2018 was the recent Ramon Magsaysay Award Winner – Dr.Bharat Vatwani, a renowned Psychiatrist and Founder Chairman of Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation – an organization devoted to the wandering mentally ill people we often see on the streets and ignore. DG Shashi Sharma and Dr.Mohanbhai Patel graced the occasion as Guests of Honour while Dr.Anjali Chabria and several visiting Rotarians, Rotaractors and Guests were present to hear Dr.Bharat Vatwani and get inspiration from his work.
|DG Shashi Sharma|
The Ramon Magsaysay awards, considered as Asia’s Nobel Prize, were established in 1957 to commemorate Ramon Magsaysay, the late president of Philippines. In the past six decades this award has been bestowed on over 300 outstanding men, women and organizations whose selfless service has provided solutions to some of the most uncivilized problems of human development. In being honoured with this award Dr. Bharat Vatwani joins other illustrious Indian awardees such as Vinobha Bhave, Mother Teresa and Jayprakash Narayan to name a few.
The citation presented to Dr. Bharat Vatwani at the awards ceremony reads “ The Foundation recognizes his tremendous courage and healing compassion in embracing India’s mentally-afflicted destitute and his steadfast and magnanimous work in restoring and affirming the human dignity of even the most ostracized in our midst”.
Born in June 1958, the journey for Dr Bharat Vatwani, an MD in Psychiatry began in 1987, when he and his wife Smita, also a practicing psychiatrist, spotted a frail young man drinking water from a gutter. The couple took him to their nursing home in Borivali. Treated him and reunited him with his family in Andhra Pradesh. It turned out that the young man was a BSc graduate suffering from schizophrenia. Ten years later in 1988 Dr. Vatwani along with his wife conceptualized and founded Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation, to provide temporary custodial care for road side destitute schizophrenia patients. The major mission of this foundation since inception has been the rescue, treatment, rehabilitation and reunification with their families of the wandering mentally ill destitute from the streets of India. This couple also helped a well-known professor also suffering from schizophrenia from JJ School of Art, who was wandering on Mumbai roads for over two years. After his treatment, Dr Vatwani fought for him to get his job back. This triggered an overwhelming response from art students, who organized a fund raiser art exhibition for Dr. Vatwani’s cause. With the proceeds from this exhibition coupled with the help of various donors, what started as a two room tenement in 1988 treating a few destitute at a time, Dr. Vatwani now established a separate psychiatric institution with a capacity of 20 beds at Dahisar in 1997.
|Dr.Vatwani being felicitated by the Club|
However, not all was easy going. The residents of Dahisar resisted and took Shraddha to court for picking up roadside, psychiatrically disturbing elements that they perceived threatened their families with a bad influence. In a landmark judgment, this much abused section of society, found its lawful place under the sun. “The mentally ill roadside destitute” - emphasized the Mumbai High Court are as much entitled to medical help as any physically indisposed person.
Finally in 2006, a separate facility in 6.5 acres was created on the outskirts of Mumbai on the undulating grassy knolls of Karjat. It currently has a capacity to house 120 patients. To ensure absolute focus, the entire activity is totally free to the patients and the institute only caters to destitute wandering helplessly on the streets. No patient brought in by relatives is accepted at this institute by the foundation.
During the last 3 decades, more than 7000 mentally-ill roadside destitute have been assisted off the roads, treated, rehabilitated and reunited with their families in far flung villages and towns of Indian stretching from Kerala to Assam. More specifically, after the initiation of the Karjat project in 2006, close to 5500 mentally ill roadside destitute have been reunited with their families.
On a more personal level, this dedicated husband & wife team are blessed with 4 children. A biological daughter named Akshaa and 3 children adopted from Mother Teresa’s home, 2 sons named Arjun and Karmanya, and one daughter named Kanika. This couple truly symbolizes Our Rotary motto of “Service above Self”.
- Report by Past President Rtn.Krishna Kejriwal