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We could only bring boys, villagers did not want the girls to leave Latur, says Muttha

First person account of Pune-based builder, philanthropist-social worker Shantilal Muttha, president, Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana, who paved the way for the education of 1,200 earthquake-affected children of Latur

pune Updated: Sep 30, 2018 14:30 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Shantilal Muttha (second from right) with the then chief secretary of Maharashtra Dinesh Afzalpurkar (right), interact with boys who were rescued from Latur after the earthquake and moved to Pune.(HT PHOTO )

I left the same day it happened and I was ready with my planning to give as much help I could provide to the villagers there.

I was already on call with my volunteers and members of the Akhil Maharashtriya Jain Sanghatana, now Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana (BJS), as soon as I heard the news through my volunteers in Barshi; that at 3.55 am an earthquake shook Killari and everything was mayhem.

With their help, I readied fruits, emergency food packets, water and sent it ahead while I began the journey in my car with my friend with two trucks carrying electric generators.

I realised that the first thing that would have collapsed was electricity supply and water, and hence, we drove as fast as we could, manoeuvring in the rain that followed the quake.

There was almost zero visibility with rain lashing out and we almost got hit by lightning but we were lucky to reach Sastur village.

We set up camp in Sastur and it was something even I had not envisioned.

There was only dust flying in the sky, with several people running helter- skelter searching for their missing family members or even looking for their homes which were all gone. Fifty-five villages were razed to dust, with 8,000 people dead and 10,000 more injured. We set up camp and began to work helping those who had nothing.

With the help of Sharad Pawar (then chief minister), ex-ministers Madanlal Bafna and Padamsinh Patil, we adopted nine villages - Sastur, Holi, Holithanda, Rajegaon, Rebi Chincholi, Thavshijad, Pettsanghvi, Nandurga, and Katechincholi, of Osmanabad and Latur districts. We were providing food and assistance to almost 10,000 people daily and still it was not enough. It was while we were working there that I thought of the impact on the minds of the children and that is how we decided to bring 1,200 children to Pune. We could only bring the boys as the villagers did not want the girls to leave their village.

Eventually, this number rose to 1,421 children, at least 70 of who were orphaned while some of the others had lost one parent.

(as told to Prachi Bari)

First Published: Sep 30, 2018 14:30 IST