Many years ago, Dr Rajendra Dhamane noticed a mentally ill woman sitting amidst garbage eating her own stools. This shocked Dr Dhamane to such extent that he started feeding such women using family resources. The family used to initially feed them on the roads and leave them there. This went on for two years. Later, the Dhamane family realised that it would be better to start a charitable home their for them which would serve as their shelter and help in upkeep. Treatment would be possible and it would also put an end to the sexual abuse of such women.
Dr Dhamane’s father, a retired teacher, Bajirao Dhamane Guruji, offered his 6,000-square feet plot of land for the work. The family started construction. Eminent philanthropist and structural engineer late YS Sane, from Pune, donated Rs6 lakh for the construction. The home for the mentally handicapped came up in Ahmednagar in 1998. The leadership was with Dr Rajendra Dhamane and Dr Sucheta Dhamane, the husband and wife team.
The home came to be known as Mauli Seva Pratishthan (MSP) popularly known as ‘mauli’. It has been providing love, affection and care for the destitute, homeless and mentally affected women and children. (mauli means mother in the local language, Marathi).
Mauli is a full-time commitment for Dr Dhamane and his family. He says,“We provide lifelong care for them and their children, many of whom are born at the shelter. The work in Mauli is 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The day starts at 6am and ends by 11pm. As these women are in a bad state physically and mentally, they need to be attended to personally; the attendant has to bathe them, clean them, address their toilet needs. Post-bath, feeding them breakfast and looking after their medical needs is important. Special attention is given to psychologically distressed women and those affected by AIDS and those having children.” The enormity of the work is evident from this matter-of-fact narration; it also highlights the sexual exploitation of such women.
Mauli Seva Pratishthan is accredited by the Mental Health Authority of Maharashtra, as a registered/licensed institute working in the field of psychiatry and also has an ISO 9001-2008 certificate. Currently, the Pratishthan is looking after 100 women and 16 children. Dr Dhamane says about the children,“We hope to raise them to become honest and respectable citizens of society.”
“Until now, Mauli is entirely funded by public donations with no support from the government. All the work carried out here is with the help of recovered inmates. Paid staff is not available. We are working in multiple roles—as a doctor as well as a cook, ambulance driver, attendant, nurse, lab technician and as cleaning staff also,” says Dr Dhamane.
Dr Dhamane produced and directed a short film called ‘Janaa’ based on the story of one of the inmates. The film was selected and screened at various film festivals in France and India. This helps to educate people about mental illness and how to be helpful to them. Dr Dhamane adds, “People are becoming more sympathetic towards these unfortunate women.”
In June 2016, Dr Rajendra Dhamane received the prestigious International Humanitarian Award 2016 from Rotary International at Hong Kong. The Award, worth US$1,00,000 is dedicated to the cause and for the new construction project of ‘Mangav’. These are the future expansion plans.
We, as citizens, as well as the government, have a duty to ensure that Mauli Seva Prathishtan and organisations like it have the resources and support, to care for the mentally ill. After all, it is our social responsibility. For those who wish to help, donations to the Pratishthan enjoy tax benefits under Section 80-G of the Income-Tax Act.
Mauli Seva Pratishthan
YS Sane Indradhanu Project
Village Shingve Naik
On Ahmednagar-Shirdi Highway
Ahmednagar - 414111, Maharashtra