Preet Mandir says its hands are clean

Date: 1999-01-08


PUNE, Jan 8: Sahil Todankar’s story does not end with his reunion with his biological mother. On January 8, Preet Mandir, the orphanage where Sahil stayed for a few months called for a press conference to clear up its role in the affair.

G.S. Bhasin, trustee of the Balwant Kartar Anand Foundation that runs Preet Mandir said, “It may have appeared that we were the ones who offered money to Pooja Todankar (Sahil’s mother) to give up her child to the Singals, but the truth is that we never did any such thing”.

Explaining their role in caring for abandoned children, Bhasin said, “All the children who come here, come through the court and leave through the court. The same happened with Sahil. He came here via a juvenile court order from Satara. And what happened to him is unfortunate, but whatever we did was absolutely legal”.

It is believed that the home did not make serious efforts to search for Sahil’s biological mother. That is because though Sahil was put in their care on March 20, 1998, the advertisement to report a missing child was inserted in the papers by them only in the last week of June, 1998. Besides this the home informed the Matunga police that Sahil was missing since January 1998 while the Kole police chowki, Satara was aware that he was missing from December 21 onwards. Sudhir Chinchwadkar, senior social worker at Preet Mandir explains,“How could we put an advertisement in the papers before we got the police report?

When Sahil came to us, we only had the court order which did not state where he was from. It was only when we got the police report that we knew we had to look in Mumbai for it stated that he was picked up in Dadar by a ragpicker. “Also the police report forwarded by the Bal Kalyan Sanstha, Satara, did not clearly mention that the child was missing since December 21. The letter the Kole police gave them was dated March 12, 1998 and stated that the child was missing since the past two months. So obviously we assumed that he was missing since January 1998”.

Bhasin adds, “We have in the past 15 years found homes for about 400 children and never has something like this come up. If Sahil was put under Tarun Singal’s foster care it was only after the mandatory 90 days had elapsed and the advertisements about his status put in the Mumbai and Pune editions of Sakal. Also we made enquiries with the Matunga and Dadar police and drew a blank. “Besides we went into an agreement with them stating that if the biological mother was found, then they were bound to return the child to his mother”.

The other grey area in this entire episode was why did the home get back to Matunga police station once again in October. “Since we had already made an application to court enabling the Singals to adopt Sahil, we were instructed by the Social Welfare Board to once again make an effort to look for his biological mother before the final adoption is made. And that is why we once again made a plea to the Matunga police to look into their records. Luckily, they discovered the truth.” says Chinchwadkar.

“We have never wanted to keep a child from its mother. In fact, right now we have three children whose mothers have asked us to return them. But like we said earlier even that will have to be done through the proper channels.”

Sahil Todankar was missing from Mumbai when his mother suddenly fainted. He was picked up by a ragpicker who then took him to Karad in Satara, from where he landed at Preet Mandir, Pune, where he was put up for adoption. On January 6, Sahil was returned to his biological mother.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.