SENIOR CITIZEN Panchshila Ladies Welfare Association, a 150-member fleet of women 50 and above, runs an impressive dispensary-cum-balwadi for the poor, reports SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

N estled amidst well-dressed bungalows of New Delhi's Panchsheel Park is this dispensary-cum-balwadi. If you are not too attentive, you have every chance of taking it as yet another cottage of this posh colony; I nearly do so till my eyes catch a glimpse of the board that says, “Panchshila Ladies Welfare Association Charitable Dispensary and Balwadi”.

A neat cottage with a fresh coat of paint and a well laid-out lawn, its walkway lined with lush potted plants. The impressive appearance of the dispensary is unlike your idea of a typical example. Step in and you are amazed by the work as well. All is quiet but all are busy. Two association members — senior citizens with greying hair — are manning the registration counter at the entrance; an elderly lady is at the medicine counter; and one is assisting the doctor at the OPD. You can't miss the elegant dressing, the urbane look of these volunteers just as you note the ultra cleanliness of the entire set-up. A handful of female patients are in queue, waiting for their turn to meet the visiting gynaecologist.

“Usually, Tuesdays are very busy days here. Today it is less crowded,” says an elderly volunteer, the co-convenor of the dispensary. She and the other three have been on duty from 8.a.m. till noon. “We are 28 volunteers in all, all members of Panchshila Ladies Welfare Association, who give their time here by turn. So tomorrow some others would be here,” she says.

The Association is 150-member strong, “all in the age group of 50 and above, and those who don't volunteer here contribute by doing other work.” Because it is team work, no one wants her name to come up in the write-up. “It is not a personal endeavour, so no individual name should be mentioned when we talk about our social work,” states a volunteer.

Tuesday's OPD opens with a visit by a skin specialist, followed by an eye specialist, a general physician and a gynaecologist. “We have a list of doctors specialising in various fields who give their time here; some come every alternate day, some on a weekly basis. We pay an honorarium to them,” offers yet another volunteer. Each patient is charged Rs.10 per visit, and medicines for three days are given free. “Rs.10 is charged for antibiotics.”

Immunisation of children takes place every Friday. “We have a tie-up with North Point Hospital in Panchseel Park for discount on X-rays, etc.,” adds a senior volunteer. Patients come from far and wide. “We have poor people coming from even Nangloi and Dakshinpuri.”

The finances of the dispensary are borne by individual donations; there are eight employees to be paid a salary. “We have no other funds. Though there is no commercial work happening here, MCD charges us commercial rate for water and electricity. We have been requesting it for an exemption without avail. We, however, get 25 per cent discount on property tax,” informs the co-convenor.

The Association also runs a balwadi at the venue every afternoon (Monday to Friday). “We have a teacher and a helper to look after 35 to 40 poor children from the area. Some members are retired teachers, so they help out too,” adds a member. They run it jointly with a Trust formed by well-known city social worker Krishna Satyanand.

Referring to the birth of the dispensary back in 1979, the members bestow credit for it on a colony couple, Satya Anand and D.B. Anand, for forming a Trust under which it runs the dispensary, and also to former LG Jagmohan for allotting the present plot of land. Having begun at a member's garage and then shifting base for some time to Panchshila Park Club, the dispensary added a balwadi when it moved to its present address in 1985.

“It took us a year to construct the building. While the Government paid half the money, we raised the other half,” fills in a volunteer. Today, it has allotted rooms for general OPD, eye and dental check-up, physiotherapy and a path lab. “The doctors help us to keep it professional,” adds the co-convenor. The only missing link is lack of young women in the endeavour. “We want them to take an interest because ultimately they will have to carry forward the work. However, unlike us, most young women today go out of their house on work and have little time for social work,” they say.

(For donations, contact 9873861178 or 9313607958 or visit the venue at N-52A, Panchsheel Park)

It is not a personal endeavour, so no individual name should be mentioned when we talk about our social work