Bengaluru: “The hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray,” was once quoted by the late V Mani. He was a person who understood the stigma of the children of prisoners. That is why in July1999 after retiring from the Reserve Bank of India, Mani started SOCARE IND (Society’s Care for Indigent) with initially just two children, at his residence in Rajajinagar.
The first year they had only four children but today they have 110 boys, 61 girls and 3 branches. Unfortunately Mani passed away in November 2013 and the organisation is now being looked after by his friends who incidentally are all above seventy years of age, as his children have settled abroad.
The organsiation provides comprehensive care for children under sufferance of multi-pronged deprivation of socio-economic and self-inflicted hues. Their vision is to establish a pro-active society for the children of convicts in an atmosphere where equality prevails.
R.Venkatanathan who is the secretary of the organisation and also a retired RBI employee said, “These children need the utmost affection and care. Most of them come from a very poor background and 70 per cent of them are children of convicts sentenced to life imprisonment.
They carry a stigma. Here we try to provide them with an atmosphere where they can lead a healthy and happy life. We also provide help to children who have either no father or mother and come from a socially and economically backward background.”
He further added, “We provide them with food and shelter and send them to nearby schools and colleges. Since this organisation is quite old now, most of our children are now going to colleges and are doing really well in their respective fields.
Some are mechanical engineers and we have children working in Kotak Mahindra after doing their MBA, we also have students with diplomas in telecommunications and the like.”
Most of their children are from Gulbarga as the jail authorities in Gulburga took proactive efforts in sending the children of the convicts to SOCARE. They have a hostel in Gulburga, which houses 21 boys.
A piece of land measuring 4,800 sq ft has been acquired on a long lease from the Gulbarga Development Authority (GDA) which is earmarked for building a hostel & a vocational training centre. Plans are on to set up vocational training centres in various jails for the benefit of the inmates.
In Bengaluru, they have two branches, one in Rajajinagar where girls stay and two other buildings in Laggare, Peenya. Currently, they have a boys’ hostel there and in an old building adjacent to this land, there is a girls’ hostel.
They want to bring all of them under the same roof at Laggare. In fact, they have sent proposals to two companies to help them with the infrastructure as per CSR initiative.
The new boys’ hostel at Laggare, Peenya, with a capacity to house 160 children was commissioned in 2014. A proposal to remodel the existing Girls’ Hostel at Laggare, Peenya is under active consideration.
The majority of the children excel in sports, dance, painting and martial arts, etc. Two girls passed their Bachelor of Commerce examination (B Com) securing 1st class and have joined the most prestigious professional Chartered Accountants course.
A boy who secured more than 90% in Std XI is pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. A girl who completed her MBA in finance with the support of Socare Ind, is gainfully employed in a leading private sector bank as an executive. Majority of them are first generation school goers. They are longing to make a positive difference in the society that shunned them.
SOCARE IND has impacted the lives of the parents of these children. Their expectations are that the future of their children should be much better than theirs. They look forward to their children’s bright future in the safe hands of SOCARE.
They have also impacted other communities as well. A large number of individual volunteers support SOCARE IND with material and financial help. People’s awareness about the huge problem and the need to address them seriously is on the increase.
Venkat said, “There has been help from various sectors, but it is not consistent apart from the Rs 50,000 per month from Sri Sharada Peetam, Sringeri. Also Shena Sampada supports the education of 20 children in a particular school. Many educational institutions do give us concessions.”
The children are taken to Gulbarga to meet their parents during their vacations in jail, when the organisation shares the report cards of their children. They spend some time with their parents and are back again to their respective SOCARE homes.