Touching lives Urmi Basu, 52, Founder Executive Director, New Light
At least 300 youngsters from the red light areas of Kalighat and Sonagachi have something to thank Urmi Basu for. An alumni of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Basu was actively involved with TISS’s department of criminology and correctional administration, the special cell for women in distress under the commissioner of police. She made a few field visits to Kamathipura and Shuklaji street, where she saw young girls between the age of 13 and 15 trapped behind barred windows. “It was almost exactly like what was shown in Salaam
Bombay,” she says. That image never left her mind, and eventually in 2000, Basu began her own venture called New Light. With just Rs 10,000 in hand, Basu started an evening crèche for the children of sex workers in Kalighat. “There were others who were doing similar work but our concept of an evening crèche was unique as the workers didn’t have a place to leave their children at while they were at work,” she says. “Initially it was difficult to convince the mothers that the children needed education, and they were so hopeless that they didn’t believe their was a life outside this trade,” adds Basu. Today, they teach over 300 children at the five centres spread across the city. “It was important to remove girls from those area before adolescence so that they don’t get stuck in the same trade. Now, we are focusing on a boys home as they too get sucked into crime and alcoholism,” says Basu.