The Pingalwara Charitable Society in Amritsar, Punjab, commonly known as Pingalwara, needs no introduction.

The institution – a shelter for mentally challenged, handicapped, diseased, old age persons and the destitute — is known all over the globe for the extraordinary services it provides to suffering humanity.

It was the outcome of the single-minded dedication of a holy soul, Bhagat Puran Singh, who literally dedicated his whole life to selfless service to the poor and the needy.

Since its inception in 1950s, Pingalwara has come a long way, adding new feathers to its cap. It has taken a lead in environmental causes – picking up another cause close to Puran Singh’s heart – and providing free education to the poor.

It has extended the facilities and added state-of-the-art infrastructure for the benefit of its inhabitants by opening a school for special children and another one for deaf children.

Meanwhile, as the two campuses of Pingalwara situated at Manawala, GT Road, and opposite the bus stand, recently geared  up to observe the 19th death anniversary of Bhagat Puran Singh ji, Dr. Inderjit Kaur, Director of the Institute, feels proud at the rare and distinguished achievements of the Pingalwara.

“This gives us inner satisfaction as we see patients getting cured and reuniting with their families after getting treatment,” she says. Every year about 150-200 patients return to their families after getting treatment, she adds.

From August 2010 to July 2011 as many as 288 patients were admitted, out of which 180 patients were sent to their homes after they were cured, she says.

The society now has 1,521 residents, including mentally challenged, diseased and old age persons.

Dr. Inderjit Kaur explains that the philosophy of Pingalwara is unique. Bhagat ji believed that the collective efforts of the society are capable of achieving anything and these cannot be matched by that of a government or an individual. The efforts, which the whole staff and management of the society and persons associated it, put in have resulted in the involvement of more and more philanthropists with the institution.

Cochlear Implants of Two Children

Dr. Inderjit Kaur considers the cochlear implants on two of the deaf and mute children – Harmandeep Kaur and Jagjivan Singh – as a great achievement as it helped in bringing a new ray of hope in the lives of two children who were ailing from deafness from their birth.

“The implant was very costly but we did it free of cost with the help of donations by various philanthropists associated with the organisation. Dr J.M. Hans, eminent cochlear implant surgeon and personal physician to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, along with Dr Jagdeepak Singh of Government Medial College, conducted the operation voluntarily,” she says. Now these children are undergoing speech therapy and showing great results.

Sensory Room for Cerebral Palsy Patients

Another feather in the Pingalwara’s cap is a school for special children. It is equipped with a sensory room for acute cerebral palsy patients wherein the senses of such children are developed with the helps of lights, sounds and colour. The multi-sensory room situated in the Manawala complex provides an environment where a child can begin to focus on their senses such as feel, vision, touch, sound and smell.

Anita, who herself is a resident of the society and trained the children, informs that there are 27 children with spastic cerebral palsy and they are being trained there.

There is perhaps no other such school in Punjab which is equipped with the facility of sensory room, claimed Dr. Inderjit Kaur. Various experts who visit the Pingalwara feel very impressed with the facility, she adds.

School For The Deaf

Schools for the deaf are much needed institutions, and setting up of the Bhagat Puran Singh School for the Deaf could be another major achievement of the Pingalwara society.

The school is equipped with the latest electronic audio/ video gadgets in order to provide its students with the necessary training for communicating with others and receive the necessary education.

Admission of HIV Patients

The test, conducted during the admission of patients, brought the startling revelation that as many as 12 patients, some of them from Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad, were found to be HIV positive. They were found roaming in the city streets after the police and NGOs brought them to Pingalwara.

“As per our practice, we used to conduct tests including HIV on all the patients being brought to the Pingalwara during which they were found infected with HIV virus. We immediately started treatment with the help of government schemes which provide free treatment and medicines to the patients,” says Dr. Inderjit Kaur while adding that they were never discriminated against and were kept with the other patients, while taking all the precautionary measures.

Bhagat Puran Singh Adarsh School

Pingalwara is also phenomenal work for providing education to the children of down-trodden people. In order to achieve this aim, The Bhagat Puran Singh Adarsh School, affiliated to the Punjab School Education Board, was opened in the premises of the Manawala complex.

At present about 650 children get education in the school. These students are provided free education along with books and  uniforms, as well as transportation for those who come from far away places.

Natural Farming

Taking up environmental causes, Pingalwara has set up its own farming at Dhirekot village near Jandiala Guru, strictly following natural farming techniques. Use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers is a strict no-no here.

“The production has doubled after adopting the techniques,” said Rajbir Singh, a teacher and Trustee of the Pingalwara Society. He is the chief organiser of natural farming and nursery for the Society, besides organising awareness programmes at villages, schools and colleges in the city.

The society planted innumerable saplings of flower plants, fruit and shady trees in various parts of the city.

Opening of TB Block

Recently, the society opened a new TB ward for the patients suffering from the disease. A number of patients arrive with TB infections or they contracted infection after their arrival in the centre. A special 20-bed TB ward has been opened for such patients who are provided free treatment under government DOTs programme. They are kept in the ward till they are cured.

Sona and Mona, the conjoined twins adopted by Pingalwara about seven years ago, remain the centre of attention for many who visit the society. Abandoned by their parents, they were being brought up at the Manawala Complex. They are now the students of Grade Two at the Bhagar Puran Singh Adarsh School.

“They are sharp and intelligent and respond to questions quickly as compared to other children,” says Rajni Bala, their teacher. Sona and Mona are joined at their lower abdomen.

“They are conjoined yet they are different from each other in habits,” she said.

Sona and Mona were born in the Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi. They were referred to AIIMS where their parents abandoned them due to their poor financial conditions.

Article By: P.K. JAISWAR

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