Published: 07th August 2018
India's Oldest Old Age Homes: How Navanir has been helping elderly women in Bengal
Navanir was set up by Gandhian Renuka Ray and was West Bengal's first old age home for women on the Eastern seafront. Read all about it here
Dear Renu, The government alone can never solve the fathomless miseries and poverties of the women in Bengal…..Do something and organise a movement.
These words from Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the second Chief Minister of West Bengal inspired noted Gandhian Renuka Ray, along with social activists of that time, to form the Women’s Coordinating Council, an affiliated body of several social welfare organisations.
Renuka Ray felt that a problem area in our society totally overlooked by all was the ensuing problems of old age. In a world of shrinking joint families and limited space, the hapless elderly, particularly widows became the most expendable and were considered a burden to the family.
The visionary in Renuka Ray had this dream of creating a shelter which will have an ambience of a home away from one’s own home. And that's how Navanir – Home for the Aged, (initially known as ‘Navanir Nab Asha’) was born in July 1977. It was started at a dilapidated rental accommodation amidst lots of greenery, trees and ponds at 30, Ashoke Avenue, (presently 272 NSC Bose Road), Tollygunge with 30 women of advanced years as its residents. This was the first old age home for hapless Bengali women in Eastern India.
Stalwarts of the time like T N Singh, then Governor of West Bengal, Shankar Prasad Mitra, former Chief Justice Calcutta High Court and Rusi B Gimi, noted social activist and founder of Selvel Advertising came forward and offered their active help and co-operation in fulfilling this dream.
The premises at 30, Ashoke Avenue, was requisitioned by the Govt of West Bengal in 1950 and given to WCC on rent in 1977. During 1991-92 the premises was de-requisitioned and the original landlords had the property returned to them.
After a series of discussions, where Navanir was helped by eminent lawyers of the Calcutta High Court and eminent architects, the landlord agreed to gift Women’s Coordinating Council a newly constructed building for Navanir. On December 6, 2000, the new building was inaugurated by Viren J Shah, Governor of West Bengal, where 48 residents were accommodated in 4 large dormitories and cubicles.
“Navanir Tollygunge is in its 41st year and the journey will go on as it continues to provide the senior citizens with the best possible love, care, and dignity at their sunset years of their lives,” says Suvadra Roy Chowdhury, Director, Navanir. Another unit of Navanir was set up at Chetla in the early eighties at its own premises on land donated by Calcutta Improvement Trust.