Mumbai’s transformers

By Team Mirror

Mumbai Heroes honoured by the city’s who’s who at a starry show.

Mumbai Heroes_Wadala
Filmmaker Shyam Benegal felicitating Vasanti from PACT

On Saturday evening, Mumbai came out in great numbers to celebrate the achievements of its five heroes, whose quiet, yet formidable achievements had until recently gone unsung. In a ceremony held on the expansive lawns of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), prominent Mumbaikars from all walks of life helped celebrate the efforts of five individuals, who together are transforming the city and positively impacting the lives of its citizens in ways both overt and implicit.

The evening kicked off in earnest at 7 pm with Indicus, a two-member group comprising Anuraag Dhoundeyal and Karan Chitra Deshmukh, enthralling the gathering with their various Sufi renditions. The weather, as Mirror columnist Mahinder Watsa noted, remained thankfully pleasant, and by the time our heroes and guests took to their chairs, the atmosphere at the museum was already marked by a sense of convivial anticipation.

Read the full story on Mumbai Mirror. Originally published on .


The Fabulous Five


Readers’ votes are in and the jury has spoken. Presenting the five Mumbai Heroes.



After thousands of reader votes and hours of jury discussion, Mumbai has its Fab Five — the unsung Heroes who make this city tick.

This follows an almost a month-long process where Mirror identified 27 heroes, and profiled their work and its impact. While it was almost impossible for the jury to choose just five winners from the 27 nominees (they admitted as much), they hardened themselves to arrive at the final decision after over two hours of heated discussions.

The five are: Sampuran(e)arth, a collective of three engineers who gave up their lucrative jobs to clean Mumbai and to create wealth out of the gargantuan 10,000 tonnes of waste it generates daily; Parents and Children Against Trafficking – PACT, a group of 12 women from the Wadala Transit Camp who ensure children from their community do not become victims of trafficking and child marriage, Bhau Daji Lad honorary director Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, the Save Aarey campaigners who got the state to move the proposed Metro car shed elsewhere, and Rajaram Joshi, a voluntary life-guard who saves those who jump or fall into the Vashi creek.

Read the full article, published on , on .


12 women: A pact for protection

Mumbai Mirror By Gitanjali Das | Mumbai Mirror

A lack of education has not stopped a group of 12 women from steadily transforming the Wadala transit camp. Together, they battle against child marriage, trafficking and a high dropout rate in their community’s schools. Past victims themselves, they work closely with the NGO Aangan, which works towards strengthening India’s child protection system. Their intent is clear — they don’t want future generations to suffer the same fate they did.

The Wadala transit camp is home to a population of approximately 22,000 migrants. Some are project-affected persons. Others had lost their homes to false promises of redevelopment. With the state refusing to recognise their existence, law and order has only deteriorated in this community. Child trafficking is an open secret. From a young age, children drop out of school to work as busboys, while others sniff glue in dark alleys. The fear of sexual predators has forced families to confine their daughters. Many girls aren’t even allowed to attend school.

Read the full article here.

India’s Trafficking Story is Full of Missing Little Pieces

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Chandauli for the first time, a two-hour drive from Varanasi. For the past year, I’ve been following Aangan’s work there with vanvasis, a Scheduled Caste group who live off the forest. I had a mental picture of what I was about to see – deeply malnourished children with too-large heads and protruding bellies, their parents collecting wood and betel leaves from the forest to eke out a living.


To reach the village, we got off the main road, onto a dirt track, now almost indistinguishable after heavy rain. From there, it was a one-kilometre walk to the village, wading through knee high water to reach the first clutch of houses. The village is in a valley between hills, and transportation is virtually non-existent. In other circumstances, purely as a tourist, the setting would have lifted my spirits – mud houses with low, thatched roofs, a few buffaloes, streams and an air of quiet, bucolic.

At first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong. The rudimentary school and malnourished children didn’t surprise me. Nor did the men and women sitting outside their homes all day, no claim on their time, no work to tend to. As I spoke to a group of women from the community, it began to hit home.

Read the full article on The author, Deepika Khatri, is the Strategy and Advocacy Coordinator at Aangan.

Notes from the field – Of childhood and children

Notes from the field - Of childhood and children

“I’ve never been to school,” Ramya said. “I was married by 15 and had no voice in my husband’s family. My entire life was shaped by decisions made by others. I wanted to get my daughter married early too, but I realised that I cannot push her down the same difficult road that I was forced to take.”

Ramya is a member of PACT (our program with volunteer adult child protection workers) in Bhopal’s Aishbag basti, where I work with women like her, training them to be aware of child protection issues. Last month, the program completed one year since it began. During anniversary celebrations, my colleagues and I spoke to the women about what motivates them to work for child protection issues in their communities. I thought it would be a routine conversation. I didn’t realise so much more would emerge from such a simple exercise.

Growing up and living in a basti, Ramya and the other PACT women are no strangers to issues like child marriage, girls being stopped from going to school, to violence and abuse, to being suppressed. They suffered as children, with no one to listen to their problems, or their hopes and aspirations, and the course of their lives was decided by their parents or elders in their families.

“My wishes, my hopes, and all the aspirations I had when I was young, they were all suppressed,” said Preeti, a PACT worker from Ishwar Nagar. “A child’s helplessness has no voice. Even today, when I see a troubled child, I can feel the echoes of my own crushed hopes and dreams rise up to suffocate me.”

To me, it was obvious that the circumstances and experiences of their childhood had deeply impacted these women, and were the driving force behind their need to work for the safety of children. But these women had not yet made that powerful connection.

Many said this was the first time they were talking about themselves. No one had ever cared enough to ask about their experiences of their childhood. Instead, they had bottled up their feelings and conformed to what their parents, husbands, families and society had demanded of them.

When asked what motivates them to work for children, they had to address thoughts and feelings buried deep inside, those which they couldn’t articulate, identify, or were afraid to even think about. But as the women opened up, and began sharing stories of their childhood, I could sense that they were probing these feelings, trying to comprehend these thoughts.

When it clicked, I saw understanding dawn. This was the turning point, when they correlated their motivations to the issues they faced as children, when they grasped fully why it was important to listen to children, and understand their wants and needs. It was a powerful moment.

Nirmala, a PACT worker from Chhola, spoke about her childhood friend Seema, whose parents refused to educate her. “Seema wanted to go to school like me, but her parents didn’t allow her. I couldn’t do anything back then, and that upsets me even now. A wrong decision taken by parents can ruin a child’s life. I want to work for children’s safety so that there are no more victims like her,” she said.

This activity was therapeutic; I could see how much it mattered to the PACT women that someone was listening to them, believing them and trusting what they said, without questioning them.

Discussions like these are a strong way to connect with PACT workers, and important because these women are the pioneers of change in their communities. Given the progress that a group of just five women have brought about in every community over the last year, I wonder how much more can be achieved if families, caregivers and officials who work with children are similarly encouraged to identify their motivations.

Soon, we will be recruiting new groups of women in our communities to train under PACT. Each women will have the potential to engender change. Encouraging them to talk about their childhood experiences will be a vital step in motivating them to work for the protection of children in their communities.

(*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the women)

The author, Janhvi Dubey, is a Senior Program Associate at Aangan
As told to: Samyukta Maindarkar, Communication and Documentation Associate at Aangan