Ganpati mandal in Pune provides relief, rehab to convicts

In the past seven years, Adarsha Ganpati Mitra Mandal has helped 27 criminals in the state get back on track through counselling and employment opportunities

Although rising felony rates continue to spark discussions on the different ways to curb crime, hardly any attention is paid to the question of how to rehabilitate criminals and ensure they do not become repeat offenders. Most criminals are ostracised and are often forced back into crime due to lack of employment opportunities, but at least 27 ex-cons in the state have found their way back into society through the efforts of the Ada-rsha Ganpati Mitra Mandal.

Adarsha Ganpati Mitra Mandal
The members of Adarsha Ganpati Mitra Mandal donate a month’s salary for the rehabilitation programme

For the past seven years, the Dhankawadi-based mandal has been working to provide support and rehabilitation to ex-convicts. What originally began as a counselling programme for prisoners eventually took on a wider scope, as the mandal members realised that even if convicts wanted to make a change and earn an honest living, they were shunned by society and did not have adequate job prospects on leaving prison. This often left them with no choice but to resort to crime again in order to survive.

Santosh Shinde
With the mandal’s help, former convict Santosh Shinde got back on his feet after being imprisoned for 16 years, and has been working at a construction company for four years. Pic/Dattatraya Adhalge

Speaking to mid-day, Uday Jagtap, chairperson of Adarsh Ganpati Mitra Mandal, said, “The rehabilitation of criminals is a matter of utmost importance in order to stop the growing crimes in society. We observed while counselling them, that even if any of the criminals wanted to leave criminal activities, society did not allow them to do so. Therefore, our major task was to bring them back into the mainstream of society.”

Over the years, the organisation has helped many former convicts get back on their feet after completing their prison terms. Forty two-year-old Santosh Shinde for instance, has not looked back since he walked out of prison in 2009, after serving 16 years for murdering his lover in 1993.

Ganpati’s blessing
Shinde is currently an employee at a city-based private construction company, as its stores in-charge. He thinks of his comeback as Ganesha’s blessing, passed on to him by the Adarsha mandal.

While in prison, Shinde had enrolled for and completed 11 degree programmes, a feat for which he has been mentioned in the Limca Book of Records. “I completed Bachelors in Arts four times, with four different subjects, as well as Masters courses in three different subjects. Apart from that, I pursued four different computer courses during the 15 long years of my imprisonment,” said Shinde.

But even his impressive list of qualifications could not help him find a job. “The chairperson of mandal, Uday Jagtap was my only hope,” he said. About a year after his release, Jagtap referred him to a construction company in Hadapsar, where he has been working since 2010.

The story is similar with Dilip Kamble, who was sentenced for life for having killed his wife in 1992. Released from Yerawada Central Prison 16 years later for good behaviour, Kamble didn’t know how to begin again. His children were not supportive, and despite having worked as a junior engineer for Maharashtra State Electricity Board (Now MSEDCL), he found it hard to get a job again. “That was when the mandal helped me by bringing me into society,” said Kamble, who has spent the last five years employed as an engineer at a construction company.

The mandal visits several prisons in the state, including jails at Yerawada, Thane and Ratnagiri, amongst others. It seeks to help those convicted for both petty offences, as well as serious crimes such as murder. However it draws a line when it comes to rapists and drug users and peddlers, according to Jagtap. The thirty members of the mandal each contribute a month’s salary every year, to support the rehabilitation programme, he said, adding further, “We also approach the society for contributions during Ganpati festival.”

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