Page 46 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
P. 46

       Fondly called tai, Sunanda Patwardhan has devoted her entire life to changing the face of tribal areas of Jawhar and Mokhada in Maharashtra
  n Dr Leena Shriprasad Bavadekar
As an overwhelming majority of villages across India continue to remain deprived of basic neces- sities of life, one would imagine it to be a herculean task to bring any change in the countryside. But then, there have been numerous trailblazers in many cor- ners of the country, who by the relentless pursuit of their goal have managed to transform lives in rural pockets. And they have shown that one doesn’t always need to depend on government to im- prove the lives of fellow beings. A lot can be done by sheer determination of just one individual.
Sunanda Patwardhan, who trans- formed the face of Jawhar and Mokhada
towns in Maharashtra’s Thane district with the help of like-minded individu- als at Pragati Pratishthan, is one such individual. She has been working persis- tently for the past 49 years with the trib- als in these tehsils helping them become agriculturally self-reliant with the help of science and technology.
An alumna of Maharshi Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha in Wai, Maharashtra, she got married in 1955 at the age of 18 to Vasantrao Patwardhan. Her husband was the founder of Pragati Pratishthan, a non-government, not-for-profit organ- isation working in the area of education and rural development since 1972. Pat- wardhan created the organisation as he had traversed the region extensively on foot and was deeply moved by the living conditions in Jawhar and Mokhada.
Sunanda tai, now 82, started ac- companying her husband to the tribal areas of Thane district, which lacked even basic medical facilities. There were no hospitals even at the taluka level. To address this issue, Sunanda tai provided
Sunanda Patwardhan
door-to-door medical service with the help of a few doctors.
Walking through these areas which did not have even roads, Sunanda tai fa- miliarised herself with the families and gained their trust. She says that these people are hard-working and have very few basic needs. They can even live with- out electricity and less water. She shares these people believe in gender equality. They can’t even think of female foeti- cide. These people are firm believers and followers of their values and principles.
        The Zeal of
a Missionary
     Images Courtesy: Left: Internet; Above: Sharada Shakti

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