Angel caring for children of sex workers flies into Vellore to receive award
It is incumbent on the part of the privileged and educated people to take responsibility of changing the scenario to create a new reality for every child that has been marginalised in the country.
Urmi Basu, founder of the Kolkata-based NGO New Light, who has been working among the children of sex workers in Kolkata, made this appeal after receiving The Weekend Leader - VIT Person of the Year (2019) award at a function held at VIT Vellore on March 11.
Dr. G Viswanathan, Founder-Chancellor, VIT, whose internationally acclaimed Business School has been hosting the award ceremony for the ninth consecutive year, said that the doors of his institution would be open for the children with whom Basu worked with.
He likened Basu to the legendary Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy, the first women legislator of the erstwhile Madras Presidency, who had moved a bill seeking a ban on the Devadasi system, which was exploiting women for the carnal pleasures of privileged men in the name of religion.
Explaining the Devadasi system, Viswanthan said Devadasi means ‘slave of Gods’ and girls in the age of 15 or 16 would be taken to the temple and married to the god. Though Dr. Reddy, who is also the first woman medical practitioner in the province, had moved the bill in 1930, it took 17 years for the bill to be passed and the system to be abolished.
Viswanthan pointed out that there were 30 lakh sex workers in the country and that flesh trade was more prevalent in big cities and temple towns, wondering, ‘what is the effect on religion on us.’
The women were forced into the trade by poverty, he said and held the country and society responsible for that. In the 73 years of Independence the nation has failed to get rid of poverty with about 25 per cent of the population still living under the poverty line, Viswanathan said.
Regretting that the state and central governments were doing nothing towards the rehabilitation of the sex workers in the country, of whom one third are children below the age of 18, he urged The Weekend Leader to create awareness on the issue. For, the flesh trade cannot continue for long, he declared.
Chief Guest of the event, K Annamalai, a Karnataka cadre IPS officer who resigned his job recently after a distinguished service of nine years that had earned him the title ‘singam of Karnataka’, urged the students to transcend the ‘I’ and move into a state of being and live a purposeful life. He cited the example of Mahatma Gandhi and explained how Gandhi was just an ordinary person till he was thrown out of a train in South Africa.
He also cited his personal experience working with commercial sex workers and his brief stint with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that added more purpose to his life and called upon the students to find a cause to come up in life.
Offering his felicitations at the function, V M Muralidharan, former chairman of Ethiraj College, Chennai, said that it was the cause that Basu had taken up that won her the award. As a member of the jury that chose Basu - who was one among five nominees - Muralidharan said that he should say ‘thank you’ to the awardee for her great work rather than saying ‘congratulations.’
He said that Basu’s work among the children would change the life of the women themselves in due course of time.
Comparing the modern times with the days of yore when the ‘thinnai’ or sit-out of the house was used by wayfaring strangers, leading to a situation in which underprivileged people not only were provided with a roof over their head but were also given food, he said today people were self-centred.
However, he said, he had hopes on the younger generation and cited the 2015 floods as an example for the exemplary selfless work that people can do. “There were not leaders but the youth did everything to help the people,” he said.
Sam Rajappa, Consulting Editor, The Weekend Leader, traced the longstanding association of The Weekend Leader with VIT Business School in recognising the services of people like Basu to the community and celebrating the achievements of successful entrepreneurs by holding the Inspiring Indian and Amazing Entrepreneur award and talk shows.
In her introductory remarks, Dr. P Subhashree, Dean, VIT Business School, said the award event is organised every year by VIT Business School in partnership with The Weekend Leader to instill the values of ethical leadership among the students.
Later, both the awardee Basu and the chief guest Annamalai spoke at length with The Weekend Leader Editor P C Vinoj Kumar on various issues. The conversations were followed by interactive sessions with the students and faculty of VIT Busijness School