The rise and fall of Preet Mandir

Mumbai, Aug 11, 2010 | by Kulthe, Bhagyashree

The arrest of JS Bhasin, the founding trustee of Balwant Kartar Anand Foundation’s adoption agency, Preet Mandir, is a shocking development as none other than (then president) APJ Abdul Kalam had visited it in February 2005.

According to researcher Arun Dhole, Preet Mandir was founded in 1979 by the late Sardar Kartar Singh Anand. It is managed by the Balwant Kartar Anand Foundation, which is registered in Kanpur.

In 1997, one of the founding trustees, Sardar Joginder Singh Bhasin (JS Bhasin), took over the management and started expanding Preet Mandir. Under his leadership, the foundation began running several units and had planned projects in other states.

A businessman from Aurangabad, Bhasin took over leadership of the Balwant Kartar Anand Foundation from his father-in-law and started adoption centres in Pune, Aurangabad and Goa. Over 400 children are staying at the centres run by the foundation.

The first of its four units was started in Pune Camp on Koyaji Road in 1979. Preet Mandir’s Unit II is located in Kalyaninagar in a modern three-storey building and was licensed to house up to 300 children, from newborns to 12-year-olds.

In 1987, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed against the state of Maharashtra alleging that the conditions at a government-run home, Shishu Sadan, were appalling. As a result of this litigation, the Maharashtra government, on July 15, 2002, entrusted the overall management of this unit to Preet Mandir.

Thereafter, new qualified staff, consisting of a superintendent, three social workers and 30 caretakers, was engaged. Initially the agreement was for only a year, but it has subsequently been extended. Preet Mandir also started a unit in Goa.

The latest controversy is the result of a petition filed in the Bombay high court by city-based NGOs Advait Foundation and Sakhee in 2006 and 2007. The NGOs also conducted a sting operation with a news channel which accused Preet Mandir of charging exorbitant amounts in inter-country adoptions.

In the developments that followed, the CBI probed the matter twice and gave a clean chit to the adoption agency. The foreign adoptions from Preet Mandir were stayed by the court in 2007, but the stay was later lifted in 2008.

The Central Adoption Resource Agency (Cara), the apex body in adoption, too had given a clean chit to Preet Mandir. Finally in May 2010, the CBI accepted there were irregularities in the functioning of the agency and that government officials too were involved in the corruption. They registered a case against Bhasin and others, leading to Bhasin’s arrest on Tuesday.

Credit:Bhagyashree Kulthe