West indian people

The matchmaker for girls from poor families

Ashvini Jojra, 59, a radical altruist in the RS Pura sector along the international border with Pakistan, is about to retire from the agriculture department of Jammu and Kashmir. His story began with demonetization, which seemed the least disturbing. “I only had 1,500 rupees at home,” he says, adding, “The pandemic has been a reality check that exposed the vulnerable nature of human existence.” Although the region has no government educational institute for children with special needs, Jojra has worked tirelessly for them, in addition to serving the marginalized sections of society.

This matchmaker has arranged more than 3,000 marriages of girls from poor families. “We haven’t received a single complaint of domestic violence or marriage breakdown,” he says, explaining how senior government officials are also enlisted. “Their presence sends a strong message that girls are not deprived.” According to him, the expenses of the wedding are paid by contributions and the necessary goods are often paid for on credit. He credits his parents for his social work in addition to his wife and daughters who have always supported him.

Jojra says all social work is done under the guise of Serving All Humanity Yearningly Over the Globe (Sehyog India), of which he is the founding chairman. He is also the President of the Special Olympics Bharat J&K Chapter since 2007.

He proudly recounts how a child, who walked naked through the village lanes before joining Sehyog India, made his mark at the Special Olympics. “Our special athlete Paramjeet Singh has been selected for next year’s Special World Winter Games to be held in Kazan, Russia,” he informed. Ironically, the institute had to be closed and the rented building emptied during the pandemic, which had compounded its financial problems. Now, institute staff regularly visit students in their homes.

Jojra, whose efforts have been duly recognized by the J&K government through a state award, wishes to establish North India’s largest rehabilitation center for special children at RS Pura. Despite several requests to the government over the past 15 years, it has not been able to obtain a small piece of land for this purpose. “I am sure that I will be able to work with renewed zeal after my retirement! A poet at heart, Jojra remarks: “Death would be a celebration, if one is faithful to life!

(This appeared in the print edition as “Committed To The Cause”)

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