I recently edited a copy by my senior colleague Dharmendra Jore, about a courageous young woman, Amrita Karvande, who has become an agent of change in Maharashtra. She led Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his government to create a quota in education and jobs, albeit a small one, 1 per cent, for orphans in the state.
Karvande had met him after she scored good marks in a state service examination, but could not secure a job as she did not have any documents to prove her caste etc. Orphans are denied welfare benefits in education and jobs as they don’t have a quota. She met Fadnavis and he was moved to do something for people like her. Her decision helped bring into focus another section of people who are alienated from mainstream society. The quota will not only help orphans who have to leave orphanages after 18 years of age to get jobs, but even minor orphans in education.
Karvande grew up in an orphanage in Goa. One of her interviews states that her father left her at Matruchhaya in Ponda, and that is how she has a name. It took me back to the time when I was growing up in Goa and my parents had taken me to Matruchhaya.
My earliest memories of the place are of course, seeing many children there. And then, as a woman and man walked out with a baby, my mother saying, “See, that baby now has a home.”
Later, a girl, not much older than me, probably 8 or 10 years of age, insisted she was “coming home” with us. She rushed out and got into our taxi and refused to leave it. My father and the orphanage employees had a tough task at hand, but they managed to convince her she would be taken home “next time,” and then she stepped out.
Going home. Many of the kids would watch as one by one many of their friends disappeared to this “going home”. The others obviously wondered when they would do so. Or worry why they hadn’t yet.
Opposite Matruchhaya, stands the school that my father, Narayan Athawalay, built solely on the strength of his editorials in the Daily Gomantak, which got thousands of Goans to contribute to it. The Lokavishwas Pratishthan’s school began as a residential school for the deaf and mute, and now includes visually impaired and mentally challenged children as well.
The orphans at Matruchhaya we learnt, were very interested in the children (at the school) not far from their institute. Like them, they too stayed there. But this would change during the holidays. The orphans would poignantly ask where those children in the school had gone. They had gone home.
The outcome of Karvande’s courageous meeting with Fadnavis will help many orphans. While the rules and criteria for the quota may need to be changed, it has given orphans the one thing that they need most, hope.Books, TV and films may portray them, but society may never fully understand what orphans have to face. Thanks to people like Karvande, slowly this will change, and orphans too, will be integrated into society, 100 per cent.