Sakpal, a renowned social worker, nurtured over 1,500 orphaned children in her lifetime, earning her the title of ‘Mai’, meaning mother
India lost a renowned social worker on Tuesday in the form of Sindhutai Sakpal.
Popularly known as ‘Mother of Orphans’, Sindhutai passed away following a heart attack at a private hospital in Pune.
Sapkal, who had received the Padma Shri last year, had completed 74 years in November. Her funeral will take place on Wednesday around 12 noon.
Who is she?
Born on 14 November 1948, in the Wardha district of Maharashtra, Sindhutai was nicknamed ‘chindi’ — meaning torn cloth — by society, as she was considered unnecessary.
According to her biography, her father was keen to educate her, but her mother was opposed to this idea. Hence, she studied only till Class 4 and at the young age of 10 was married off to a man 20 years her senior.
Settling in the Navargaon forest in Wardha after marriage, she strongly opposed the exploitation of village women, who collected cow dung, by the Forest department and the landlords in 1972.
While pregnant, her husband abandoned her based on a rumour of infidelity. When she returned to her home, her mother rejected her, leading her to sing and beg in trains and on the streets just to make ends meet.
‘Mother of Orphans’
While she lived on the streets and begged, she realised that there were hundreds of children who needed a mother. It then changed the course of her life as she started adopting orphaned and abandoned children.
She devoted herself wholly to the cause, earning her the title ‘Mai’ which means mother. She began the orphanage – Sanmati Bal Niketan Sanstha – in Hadapsar area of Pune. In her lifetime, she has nurtured over 1,500 orphaned children. She has a grand family of 382 sons-in-law and 49 daughters-in-law.
Her work was recognised by all and she won the Padma Shri award in 2021. Besides that, she also received more than 750 awards and honours. But, she always used the money that she received to build shelters for the orphans.
In 2010, a Marathi biopic on her, “Mee Sindhutai Sapkal” released. It was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
Reactions to her demise
President Ram Nath Kovind condoled her demise on Twitter, saying her life was ‘an inspiring saga of courage, dedication and service’.
The life of Dr Sindhutai Sapkal was an inspiring saga of courage, dedication and service. She loved & served orphaned, tribals and marginalised people. Conferred with Padma Shri in 2021, she scripted her own story with incredible grit. Condolences to her family and followers. pic.twitter.com/vGgIHDl1Xe
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) January 4, 2022
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too reacted to the unfortunate news, saying that many children could lead a better quality of life due to her efforts.
Modi tweeted, “Dr Sindhutai Sapkal will be remembered for her noble service to society. Due to her efforts, many children could lead a better quality of life.
“She also did a lot of work among marginalised communities. Pained by her demise. Condolences to her family and admirers. Om Shanti,” he said.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said, “The news of Sindhutai’s death is shocking. She gave motherly care to thousands of orphan children. In her sudden death, an inspirational personality has been taken away from the field of social work.”
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said, “The kind of social work that Sindhutai has done will inspire generations to come.”
Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said, “Sindhutai herself faced a difficult life but she worked relentlessly to uplift the lives of orphan and abandoned children. Her life is a source of inspiration for millions.”
With inputs from agencies