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  who's who >> Dr Usha Nayar


On August 4, Technology and Social Health (TASH) Foundation, a Chembur-based voluntary organisation celebrated its 10th anniversary.

A cultural show was held at the Chembur Mahila Samaj to mark the occasion. Thousands of children from the slums of Chembur attended and participated in the show, out of which more than half of them comprised of people with various disabilities.

Founded by the late Ramchandran Nayar, the TASH Foundation was set up in 1992 to improve the social health of people, especially those belonging to the economically weaker sections. It is perhaps the only NGO in India to have been selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1998 to undertake community-based rehabilitation work in an urban slum setting.

The organisation is headed today by Dr Usha Nayar, who is associated with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and many other national and international research projects. She is also a member of a panel of experts at WHO and Member, advisory, Childwatch International, Oslo, Norway.

The foundation functions with the support of a dedicated team that includes a project co-ordinator, two field supervisors and a group of 20 volunteers. Since inception, it has been involved in several action research projects like operating balwadis in slum pockets of Bhimwadi, Lumbini Baug and Cheetah Camp areas of Chembur. At these balwadis, children in the age group of three to six years attend regular classes, and are given a meal at midday. Regular medical check-ups and camps are conducted in these areas, aimed at prevention and early detection of disabilities.

While working in the slums, volunteers at TASH say they struggle to hold the attention of their students. “Since their houses are small and cramped, the atmosphere is not conducive for studies,” says a volunteer. To combat the problem, the foundation holds regular meetings with students, urging them to continue with their education. “After a long struggle, this year ten students have agreed to appear for the SSC examination,” says Chitra Lakshman, project co-ordinator of TASH. “We are extending all our support to them.”

Taking into account the increasing number of dropouts, the foundation has implemented a non-formal system of education, on the lines of BMC’s Mahatma Phule Shikshan Hami Yojana.

For the past three years, the TASH Foundation is also working on a project for the disabled known as Samarth. It is a project supported by international organisations like WHO and AIFO, Italy. Under this scheme, various aids like calipers and crutches are distributed to the disabled residing in the slums.

Vocational training, job assistance, and assistance for obtaining a disability certificate in order to avail of concessions are also provided. Says Jasmine Sheikh, a volunteer who in spite of being afflicted with polio continues to pursue her education and also manages to teach balwadi children, “Cultural shows are also held regularly because such activities help to build confidence in oneself.”