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ANITA AWACHAT (1942-1997)

Anita Awachat was a doctor specialising in addiction. She was born Anita Sohoni in Gholwad and grew up in Thane. Her family called her Sunanda. Her mother taught sewing and her father ran a hostel for Adivasi students. She studied at Fergusson College. While there she met her future husband Anil Awachat. They both studied medicine at B.J. Medical College, where she supported herself by giving private tuition to fellow students including Anil. They were married in 1968 without their parents’ approval as she was older than he and not considered pretty. She interned in Thane, seeing many cases of dog and snake bites. She saved some money by staying with her parents. She also worked at the Thane Mental Asylum. At that time she noticed there was no special facility for drug addicts who were accommodated in the asylum, where there was no means to rehabilitate them. She and Anil lived for a while with his parents but they mistreated her severely and the couple had to move out and rent a flat in a poor locality. By now they had two daughters.

Anil began writing and publishing at this time. After reading his book Gard P.L. Deshpande gave them a donation to start a de-addiction and rehabilitation centre for drug abusers. They founded Muktangan Rehabilitation Center in 1986. After two years they received government funding. In 1989 Anita was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought on, in spite of metastases detected in 1991. She appeared cured fro a while, then in 1995 the cancer recurred. She continued to work for Muktangan till the end in 1997. It is now one of the best institutions of its kind, staffed by many of its cured ex-patients, the ‘Muktangan-graduates’. It is the only rehab centre with ISO 9001:2008 certification. The 120 residential clients had a treatment regime of five weeks on-campus treatment with follow up from 20 follow up centers all over Maharashtra. It has a ‘Nishigandh’ ward with all-female staff where women can be treated with no questions asked. Her daughter Mukta Puntambekar now runs the centre.
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