Moneylife’s sustained campaign for a year has saved Pune’s SOS Balgram from closure
It will be a happy celebration for Save Our Soul (SOS) Children’s Village (SOS Balgram) in Pune, on its anniversary day on 7th November. The Principal Secretary of the Women and Child Welfare Department issued a letter on 21 October 2014, to the SOS authorities saying that its license has been re-issued and that the SOS should entirely look after the orphanage. Until now, the state government had joined hands with the Swedish NGO to run the Balgram.
This comes after an agonizing one-year battle with the state government that time and again, threatened to close this 34-year-old unique orphanage and sending the 200-odd children to different remand homes. SOS Balgram is located on a prime 7-acre land, beside the elite Poona Club Golf Course (it shares a common compound wall).
The Principal Secretary in his order has stated: “1) The license of SOS Balgram has been re-instated 2) The state government has revoked the order issued on 22 August, 2014 (of closure) 3) The order for closure given by the Commissioner, Women and Child Welfare has also been revoked 4) SOS India should nominate an administrator for the next five years to look after the daily running of the orphanage.
An elated Ashok Ghadge, director of SOS Balgram, said, “We are relieved that it is no more a fluid situation and we can concentrate in the upbringing of children as per the high standards of SOS guidelines. I thank Moneylife, which has played a prominent role in highlighting the issue and also actively taking up the campaign on the ground, along with ex-students of SOS.”
Moneylife had carried a story in September this year, pointing out that the state government had written to the Commissioner, Women and Child Welfare dept, to begin proceedings to close the orphanage and begin the process of sending children to other homes. This had shocked the children and trustees because of the suddenness of the order and had left no hope for them.
It may be recalled that, Moneylife took up the issue way back on 6th January this year when Rajendra Chavan, Commissioner of Women and Child Welfare, ordered the cancellation of license and closure of the 34-year old SOS Balgram. Many ex-children of SOS Balgram, who are now grown up and are professionals in several fields, went on a hunger strike. Moneylife took up the campaign further by procuring information under Right to Information (RTI) and guiding/ joining youngsters on how to go about the campaign.
SOS Balgram has an impeccable reputation of running the unique orphanage wherein children live like families with a `Mother’ in every cottage, for the last 34 years. Please see http://www.moneylife.in/article/punes-sos-balgram-under-threat/36284.html
Why was SOS Balgram being shut down? This writer had pointed out that the orphanage shares the same compound wall as the elite Poona Club Golf Course. Reliable sources had hinted at vested interests keen on grabbing the prime 7-acre land.
However, the Women and Child Welfare department gave its own reasons for the closure – one of molestation and one of death of a child in the last one and a half years at the orphanage. Another spoke in the wheel was the amendment in the state government rules, wherein it is now mandatory for boys and girls to stay separately. SOS though runs on the philosophy of them staying together like children of a family with ‘Mother’ as the head. SOS provides Rs5,000 per child per month and also pays for the administrative staff. Now, SOS India is completely in charge of running the orphanage, which it has agreed to.
The trustees of the SOS foundation had sought legal intervention and moved the High Court for re-instatement of the license. They had pointed to motives of two ex-students who were constantly entering premises, for the last one and a half year and harassing `Mothers’, staff and children but police was refusing to record their complaints. This writer, in March this year, took along with her, a busload of children and Mothers and compelled the Mundhwa Police to register their complaint. Thereafter, one of them was arrested. The suspicion of whether some vested interest was propping up these two ex-students to create mischief, continues.
The High Court directed the state government to take a call on the orphanage. A couple of meetings were held with Varsha Gaikwad, the then Minister of Women and Child Welfare and trustees were positive, as she hinted at re-issuing the license but did not give any assurance. August’s letter of closure came as a rude shock, but like they say, all’s well that ends well.
SOS Balgram is all geared up for a cultural function to celebrate the anniversary of the orphanage on 7th November. Against this background, the two ex-students who created nuisance want to go on a hunger strike, to protest against Balgram’s getting a second lease of life!
Moneylife stories on the issue:
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
SEBI's proposal is expected to infuse funds into the infrastructure sector, crucial for development of the country and has vast positive spill over effects over various other sectors and the entire economy
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has proposed allowing foreign venture capital investors (FVCIs) in core investment companies (CICs) for infrastructure sector to help attract overseas funds in this space.
The final norms would be put in place after taking into account public comments on the proposal and amending existing regulations, SEBI said. As on 30th September, there are 197 FVCIs registered with SEBI with a cumulative net investment of Rs42,776 crore.
Releasing a concept paper, the market regulator said the proposal is aimed at "removing any hindrance for investment in the infrastructure sector through the FVCI route and to boost the infrastructure sector in the country".
According to the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), India requires Rs65 lakh crore investments in infrastructure.
SEBI said the proposal is based on the fact that CICs are essentially holding companies and do not engage in financing activity similar to other NBFCs. Therefore, the proposal does not go against the intent of the FVCI Regulations of not allowing FVCI investment in non-banking financial services.
"The proposal is expected to infuse funds into the infrastructure sector which is crucial for development of the country and has vast positive spill-over effects over various other sectors and the entire economy.
"This proposal to allow investment by FVCIs in CICs investing in infrastructure companies has also been endorsed by the Government of India and Reserve Bank of India. The proposal is one of the recommendations of High Level Committee on Financing of Infrastructure," SEBI said.
It is proposing that the negative list under the FVCI Regulations "is suitably modified to replace 'equipment leasing and hire purchase companies' with Asset Finance Companies and Infrastructure Finance Companies", SEBI added.
Public comments have been sought till 15th November.
Currently, SEBI's FVCI norms do not permit these foreign funds to invest in non-banking financial services (NBFCs). Therefore, FVCIs are not allowed to invest in CICs under the FVCI Regulations since CICs are classified as NBFCs by Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
SEBI has actively encouraged setting up of varied frameworks for investment in infrastructure so that the lack of structures for financing of infrastructure is not an impediment for the development of the sector.
Recently, SEBI notified Infrastructure Investment Trust or InvITs norms to attract more funds in a transparent manner into the infrastructure sector.
FVCIs are investors incorporated and established outside India investing primarily in venture capital undertakings in India either directly or through venture capital funds or alternative investment funds (AIFs).
The constitution as the point of reference for religious matters
When this question was put to a classroom of school children, all of them correctly mentioned their religion. Not one said that he or she was an Indian!
Except for maybe some Islamic countries, we Indians make a huge fetish of our religion, religious beliefs and rituals and wear it all on our sleeves. Instead of religion being a deeply personal experience, it is now a measure for display. Even majoritarian countries, like Sri Lanka, which is Buddhist by far, spend more time on business, hospitality and fun. They concentrate on earning money. We need to learn from them.
In 1992, some people were deeply agitated about what they considered a religious matter. When informed that the Constitution of India allowed certain practices, one disputant said that the Constitution does not apply in religious matters! Was she correct?
You be the judge.
Can the Constitution of India be a reference point in matters religious? Or for that matter, matters not religious? Since this question is bound to raise many hackles, we leave the answer until later.
The Constitution has many parts. Each one refers to the rights and duties and procedures applicable to citizens of India. To many, the ‘Ambedkar’ Article, Article 32, seems the most important. Maybe. However, the ones that are equally important are those which detail the fundamental rights of all, listed in Part III. To this author, if the Constitution had no more than this Part, he would be happy. Because this is what allows him, and you, the freedom of choice, expression and to happiness itself.
More than 200 years ago, a slave named James Somersett was captive on board a ship.
Captive as a slave, not as a criminal, on a vessel bound for the Americas. The ship was berthed on the River Thames, in England, which meant that the ship was in English territorial waters. The man asked for his freedom; after all, habeas corpus was an English concept since the days of the Magna Carta. Did English law apply on board a foreign carrier? Or did it not?
You be the judge.
Lord Mansfield pronounced thus: “The air of England is too pure for any slave to breathe.
Let the black go free.” Two hundred years later, Lord Denning was to say this about a communist. “The law of England knows of no colour bar, whether it be the colour of a man’s skin or of his politics.” The bon mot in both these stories is ‘freedom’.
We come to India, the High Court of Bombay; circa 2014. Three men, Dr Ranjit Mohite, Kishore Nazare and Subhash Ranware, had decided that they would not follow any particular religion. They wanted it to be so declared in public; through a public notification. The government baulked. The trio went to court.
“India is a secular, democratic republic and there is complete freedom for any individual to decide whether he or she wants to adopt or profess any religion,” the judges said. “If a person is practising any particular religion, he or she can give up that religion and claim that he or she does not belong to any religion,” they added. Freedom, once again, upheld. Freedom of thought, the most powerful weapon in the world.
Which brings us back to the question at the beginning of this column. And to the specific Article 25. It reads thus: “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.” And that means to disavow all religions as well. More than the three ‘Ps’, it is the unfettering of the mind, the conscience, that takes the cake.
To fully understand the depth of these freedoms, one must think of life without any one of them. One needs to remember that what might be inconvenient today may be inconvenient for the opposite side tomorrow. And that side, without the Constitution’s protection to us, may try to enforce its will by hook or by crook.
In short, respect the Constitution. It’s all we really have.
…And the right answer should be, “A free man”!
(Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected])