In the final game Ranpakhare Team defeated the Mumbai Suburban Team by 24 points. I had the privilege of founding this Tribal Residential School in 1987 and run it for 26 years till 2012. These were the children of 7000 bonded labour families who used to get dragged forcibly for making charcoal by cutting the forests of the Western Ghat. Many young children who could not endure the hardship used to lose their lives along the way.
We fought and put an end to the bondage. In one season I had counted 65 children dying or disappearing during the annual vicious trail. As the final measure in the struggle tribal representatives, one from each tribal village, accompanied me as we sat for a Fast Unto Death in front of the CST Railway Station in Mumbai in 1986. The Mumbai High Court filed a Suo Motu Writ and summoned Govt of Maharashtra to respond.
In the negotiations that followed on the 5th Day ‘several’ measures were taken up by the state and us to rehabilitate the tribals. One of my demands was of residential education for the children. Govt of Maharashtra responded by agreeing to sanction an Ashramshala, a residential school. The Ashramshala did well and was awarded as the Best Ashramshala in 2006 by the Govt. of Maharashtra. Not just that, it claimed and retained supremacy in sports championships in the State and represented the State at the National competition in Kabaddi. When the 1st batch appeared for the external Board’s exam of 10th std the result was 93%.
The Ashramshala now has 100% passing at the 10th Std Board’s exam. Although we handed over the Ashramshala to Pawar Public Charitable Trust (PPCT) in 2012 to make it still better we continue to contribute to the education of the girl students in whatever way we can.
This week 32 former girl students of Ranpakhare who are pursuing higher education will be given a stipend of Rs. 10,000/- each. Another 15 tribal girls from Talasari, Thane district will be given the same.
As soon as the Team finished the game, the Team manager Whatsapped me all the god news to share his joy.
Bondage is over. Only the bond remains!
- Prof. (Dr.) Pravin Patkar