Rekha Jhingan from Peepal Apartments, Sector 17E, Dwarka, has been a mother figure to many — even drug addicts and alcoholics. And her NGO, Sahaj Sambhav, founded in 2006, has done much in the field of drug and alcohol de-addiction.
A passionate social activist, Jhingan has also initiated several programmes to better the financial condition of women affected by addiction in their family. She shares her initial journey: “I would teach poor kids in college. I was also working for Bhartiya Children Shiksha Samiti. My stint there taught me a lot about the difficulties that people lived in — child labour, social discrimination and discrimination against women. It was an eye-opener.”
After marriage, Jhingan had to quit social work. But after a hiatus of six to seven years, she joined Swami Agnivesh in his works and the ugly nature of the bangles industry in Firozabad was revealed to her. She recalls, “All the women had become widows in their thirties! Their husbands inevitably died of tuberculosis. It was a new direction for me — I started working in slum areas. My efforts were aimed at the health of the women and the education of their children.”
What served as the turning point in her life?
“My husband’s addiction,” replies Rekha softly. She adds, “My husband was once a national athlete and got addicted to smack in the 1980s. His health rapidly deteriorated in 1985, and I came to know that he was a drug addict. Till 2000, things continued the same way, but after a message from Narcotics Anonymous, I took him to a rehabilitation centre. At that time, we had become very vulnerable, financially and socially. But we survived.”
At the rehab, Jhingan saw how acceptance by the family and society made a huge difference to these drug addicts — and so began her campaign for the reintegration of such people into the mainstream. She says, “Often, fully rehabilitated addicts go back to drugs because they fail to find acceptance among their own.”
“I started going to seminars and campaigns related to drug de-addiction," she continues. "I had to get my husband out of it. I also wanted to do something for the families of drug addicts — they are worse off, you know. And Sahaj Sambhav was born. We also started working in the fields of HIV/Aids awareness, women's welfare and child labourers.”
But being a woman can never be easy, and Jhingan was no exception. Both society and her family reacted to the fact that she was working with addicts. But she persisted. She says, “I needed to continue — at any cost. During my work, I took in many people, including beggars. Many of them are now settled, and some of them are even helping us with our efforts. It’s a huge sense of achievement.”
Jhingan's only appeal to people: Accept these people, they need help.
This article is a replug on World No Tobacco Day 2022