19 September 2010
Mukta Puntambekar, deputy director of Muktangan Mitra, is widely viewed as a role model for youths involved in social work.
A bright student throughout her academic career, Mukta ranked in the merit list of the HSSC Board and also bagged the Chancellor’s gold medal for her Masters in Clinical Psychology. She also has a keen interest in music and literature.
After completing her Master’s degree, she joined Muktangan as a counsellor. With inherited qualities of commitment, leadership and social work, combined with her own talent, she helped shape Muktangan in a scientific and professional manner.
She is the founder of ‘Sahachari’, a support group for the wives and/or mothers of the addicts. Under her leadership and guidance, Muktangan achieved the ISO 9001:2000 certification. As Muktangan enters its silver jubilee year, Mukta shares her views and experiences with SUPRIYA SHELAR.
How do you look back at 25 years of Muktangan ?
Well, I have been observing Muktangan taking shape since its inception in 1986. I got associated with it in 1993. Even after 24 years, the basic principles and values of my late mother Dr Anita Awachat are intact.
We accept the patient as a human being and not as an addict and we call him or her a “mitra” (friend). I am happy that we have retained simplicity and transparency and this helped us to achieve the ISO 9001:2000 certification. However, as Baba says, our biggest reward is the happy faces of our “mitras” and their families.
And, how do you look ahead at next 25 years?
Honestly, celebrating the silver jubilee of an institute involved in de–addiction is not something to be proud of. We are waiting for the day when we will be able to shut down ‘Muktangan De–addiction Centre’ and start a cultural centre here.
Unfortunately, addiction is being glamourised. The average age of an addict has come down to 12 or 13 years. So, our focus will be on conducting awareness programmes at schools. We will also conduct programmes for adolescent children, especially street children and counsel them about the after effects of any kind of addiction.
Are there any plans of starting special facilities for children, like ‘Nishigandh’ for women addicts in Muktangan?
No. Not right now. Currently our volunteers in Mumbai are being trained to identify run–away children at railway stations and on the streets. Bringing these children together is a challenge for us.
Most of them are addicted to whitener, which they feel is not a problem. We are building up rapport with various city–based organisations to help us in this endeavour. To begin with, we will conduct a camp for such children from Mumbai and Pune. If needed, few of them will be admitted.
What are the key areas of research activities?
Over the past 24 years, Muktangan has been deeply engaged in de–addiction and rehabilitation work.
However, we now strongly feel that research activity and documentation is an utmost necessity. But we are yet to finalise the key areas of research.
But at this point, I can only say that with the help of information filled in the intake forms, we will try to analyse the history of the addiction … like age, type of addiction, criminal record, etc. Then with the help of experts, the statistics can be studied to determine addiction trends.
What is the big challenge?
HIV–AIDS and drug addiction are closely associated. We are increasingly finding youngsters in the ‘High Risk’ groups, especially injecting drugs. We have started pre–test and post–counseling for patients.
Muktangan has been handling such cases in association with the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI), Deep Griha Society and Wake Up Pune. Besides HIV, addiction in children is the big challenge.
While addiction is being viewed as a status symbol, do you think a single de–addiction centre can deal with the increasing work–load?
True. More voluntary organisations would have to network to deal with the situation. We don’t hesitate to take assistance and guidance from other organisations, institutes, patients and government as well.
We are conducting awareness programmes at schools, colleges, industries and slums. Under the umbrella of Federation of Indian NGOs for Drug Abuse Prevention (FINGODAP), a pressure group, we are trying to bring about changes in government schemes and policies.