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Dalit leader forgotten by the people

PUNE, AUG. 15. `Lokashir' Annabhau Sathe, a towering personality of the Matang Samaj, left behind not just his lofty ideals, great works and folk songs that still unite the community, but also a family that barely sustains itself.

Forgotten by the people and neglected by the state government, Sathe's daughter-in-law Savitribai supports her three daughters by working as a labourer at the state-run Employment Guarantee Scheme in Vategaon Village in Sangli disctrict at a meagre salary of Rs 25 per month.

With a following that cuts across party lines, Dalit leader Sathe is still an idol for many political and social organisations and his statues can be found in almost every major city in Maharashtra.

Yet his immediate family has been languishing in abject poverty without any help coming from any quarter ever since the death of his only son Madhukar, Savitribai's husband in 2000.

Savitribai's daily struggle would have gone unnoticed but for her chance presence at the 84th birth anniversary celebration of Sathe organised by the Association of Civil Workers of the 512 Army Base Workshop on July 31 at Pune.

Her condition came to light when she was escorted back home by the organisers after the function attended by prominent leaders.

Moved by her plight, the organisation collected Rs 10,000 and donated it to her, its Secretary Uttam Dandime told UNI.

They now plan to take care of the educational expenses of Savitribai's daughters studying in Classes V, IX and X, besides attempting to get some government aid for the family, Mr Dandime said.

With her scanty resources in the absence of any agricultural land, she had somehow managed to get her eldest daughters married recently. Local unit of the Republican Party of India had also pitched in and repaired their house, Savitribai said.

The neglect of Sathe's family is a sad reminder of the nation's propensity to forget its leaders after putting up their statues that are dusted and garlanded only on their birth and death anniversaries. --UNI

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