Prerna Niketan Sangh
(By Ajay Jha, Chief Correspondent Gulf News)
Meenu Saxena lives in constant fear of being evicted, for the government building she is occupying "illegally" houses the haven she holds dear - a voluntary organisation that helps polio-stricken children stand up for themselves.
Prerna Niketan Sangh, Meenu\\\'s brainchild, helps the youngsters get over their insecurities and instills in them the life skills needed to contribute to society on equal terms.
Eleven of her wards have already found gainful employment, happily slipping into their new roles as bread-earners for their families.
The government building which is central to Meenu\\\'s selfless work is meant to be a community centre for slum-dwellers near southwest Delhi\\\'s Dwarka sub-city.
"Villagers want the community centre and the newly elected Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) councillor has promised them the building. I need a place and require it urgently lest my children suffer," she says.
Class under a tree
Having started off with counselling 11 polio-afflicted children under a tree near her Janakpuri house way back in 1987, Meenu was allotted the building in 2002 for three years on a temporary basis. Ever since the offer elapsed, she has been rendered an illegal occupant of the community centre.
At last count, she had 49 children with her in the 7-21 age group, including 38 boys and 11 girls. The young residents of the building attend a government school and receive treatment and vocational training totally oblivious of how their dreams may get shattered were the organisation to be evicted from the building.
"It is the government\\\'s work that I am doing. The least they can do is to support people like us who are doing their job," Meenu observes.
The MCD, she says, offered her a place in Tilak Vihar on a monthly rent of Rs16,000, which she can ill afford. All that she can offer is the Rs10,000 she received as grant from the MCD last year.
The 50-year-old channels all her earnings into her pet project. She works as a career counsellor with Delhi University\\\'s Faculty of Management Studies, where she once studied.
With donations from friends, she somehow ensures the children can pursue their studies and treatment while enhancing their self-belief.
"I take it as a challenge and am doing it as best as I can. I feel I was born to help others," she says.
Life indeed presented no mean challenge for her. The eldest of the four children of an Indian Navy officer, she was in class IX when her father died.
Her mother lost her mental balance and the responsibility of taking care of her family fell on her slender shoulders. She completed her studies, ensured her siblings had an education and got them married, deciding to remain unmarried herself.
It was a chance meeting with the watchman of her colony that was to change her perspective radically.
"I saw the watchman holding a not-so-young girl in his lap. I learnt that the girl had polio and could not stand on her feet. I told him to take her to a hospital and he said that he could not afford to make frequent trips to hospital since he had a job to do besides taking care of his other three children. \\\'Is it not enough that I have kept her alive,\\\' he asked," she recalls.
Mrs. M.K. Saxena (Meenu Didi)
President & Founder
Prerna Niketan Sangh ( Regd.No.S-33935)
(A society registered under Society Registration Act)
Basti Vikas Kendra cum Community Centre,
E-Block, Phase-III, Sector-3, Dwarka, New Delhi–45
91- 11- 9818228414 (Mobile), +911125074985 (office)