(For the quarter April – June 2011)
Delhi needs to follow Gogoi’s lead
The Assam Chief Minister, cruising on his massive mandate in the recent Assembly elections, is wasting no time in getting down to business. In a flurry of activity, Tarun Gogoi has, these past days, instructed members of his Cabinet to formulate their priorities in a document so that he can incorporate these into his annual Budget (the formal presentation of the Budget for 2011-12 was delayed by the May elections) — as a reward, a grateful Centre has hiked Assam’ annual allocation of Plan funds by a whopping 20%; strongly petitioned Government of India on the reported Chinese plans to build dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo, as the Brahmaputra of Assam is known in Tibet where the great river originates.
Mr Gogoi has asked for “strategy papers,” backed up by data on financial resources required to fulfill those goals by 25 June. This must be a first of its kind, at least for the state, and is important not just to present at the Budget but also to follow up strongly so that these “strategies” are translated into implementation.
Since Mr Gogoi is serious about tackling both short term and long term issues head on, he must take the exercise two steps further if it is to have meaning in real terms: the ministers and their officials must be asked to set annual targets with bi-annual reviews of their work and their continuance in office should be dependent on their report cards. A new minister should be given two-to-three years to show delivery of results; the veterans need not be given more than one or two at the very most. Mr Gogoi has the capacity and the mandate to crack the whip with complete assurance — there is no challenge to his leadership and it is important to show that he not just means business but also shows decisively that he can do just that.
Of course, it is easier, in some ways, to sack ministers than their permanent staff, but the latter must also be made accountable through the Right to Information process which becomes the public’s access to what public servants and government leaders are doing or supposed to be doing. In addition, the depleted Opposition, without losing heart, should function as watchdogs, with the media also taking up issues without being scandal-mongers.
One would say that this is the approach that one would seek from the Opposition and media in a larger context as well, not limited to one state but to all states across India as well as Parliament. The latest battles on the Lokpal Bill and the issue of corruption shows that there is a growing demand not just for accountability and able political leadership, but also for what one would call “clean politicians” at the Parliamentary and other levels. This should gather momentum in the next years and not peter away.
On the issue of the Chinese dams on the Tsangpo, — an issue highlighted by this column — Mr Gogoi has minced no words and pulled no punches, for this would devastate the agricultural economies of Assam and Bangladesh, so dependent on floods and the floodplains as well as the alluvial soil that enriches farmlands (both regions have low dependency on pesticides and fertilizers). This is the right stand to take, for the Chinese must be reminded that while internal dam engineering is their own affair (including the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze which is proving both economically and environmentally disastrous), they have no right to make unilateral constructions on international rivers which impact the lower riparian. India and Bangladesh must make common cause on this issue.
Mr Gogoi has been extremely astute: he has positioned himself on the side of the influential anti-big dam movements in the Northeast, putting Arunachal, with its ridiculous and anti-people plans for damning every river that flows through that state, in the hot seat.
But more important, by focusing on Tibet, he has shown a national approach; after all, it was less than 50 years ago when China invaded Arunachal Pradesh, then the North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA), to assert its territorial claims, and Jawaharlal Nehru made a pathetic broadcast that outraged and still angers the Northeast, virtually saying goodbye: “My heart goes out to the people of Assam.”
This will not be accepted by anyone in the region and Delhi would do well to follow Mr Gogoi’s lead and tell Beijing where to get off.
(From his regular column in the Sunday Guardian, July 9th, 2011)
Baby delivered at Sarikholia sapori
A baby boy was delivered in April 2011 at Sarikholia sapori, Dibrugarh district in upper Assam, under the supervision of Dr Bhaben Borah and Dr Kumud Agarwala, Medical Officers of the Dibrugarh Boat Clinic while the boat clinic was anchored at Mesaki sapori for a scheduled camp. The new mother, Ramita Yadav was earlier brought to the boat clinic by her husband Ashok Yadav at 7 am under labour. She was kept under observation of the doctors and the nurses in the make shift labour room inside the tent, given necessary drips and medicines and at 10:40 am delivered a healthy baby boy weighing 2.8 kg. Ramita had undergone all three mandatory ANC check ups at the boat clinic.
This was the fifth delivery conducted by the Dibrugarh boat clinic since 2008 and ninth successful, safe delivery conducted on the boat clinics till date – Five in Dibrugarh, two in Dhemaji, one in Barpeta and one in Jorhat (February 2011).The Boat Clinic health outreach programme reaches out to the state’s vulnerable population who live on islands on the Brahmaputra with a special focus on women and children, who are the most vulnerable in difficult conditions. Providing ANC, PNC checkups along with advocating institutional deliveries has been priority with all the health teams especially crucial for a state like Assam which has India’s worst Maternal Mortality rate at 390(latest MMR bulletin by Home Ministry, 7th July, 2011) higher than Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, and a high Infant Mortality Rate.
SB Numali at Sonitpur
SB Numali, the boat donated by Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) to C-NES as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), is ready for service at Sonitpur district.The boat will provide health services to the marginalized river island population of the district as part of C-NES’ Boat Clinic programme under NRHM. The inaugural function of the boat launch was earlier held on 11th March 2011 at Majuli ghat, Jorhat. Senior officials from NRL and C-NES Managing Trustee, Sanjoy Hazarika were present at the launch.
NRL has donated Rs. 12 lakhs for the boat to support the innovative boat clinic initiative in Assam. The first installment of Rs. 4 lakhs was handed over by the Managing Director NRL, Dr. B. K Das to Mr Sanjoy Hazarika in September 2010.
Sanjoy Hazarika with senior officials from NRL inaugurating the boat at Majuli.
A group photograph after the inauguration of the NRL donated boat at Majuli
Survey on char sanitation
In March 2011, Management students from MILE (Management Institute for Leadership and Excellence), Maharashtra accompanied the Bongaigaon Boat Clinic health team to Kabaitary Pt-III. The students were conducting a survey on a sanitation project under the initiative of the Deputy Commissioner, Bongaigaon. The official had directed the students to accompany the Boat clinic team in order to collect information on sanitation in the char areas.
The District Programme Officer, Bongaigaon along with the three students held group discussion with the community members. Inhabitants were asked questions on sanitation interpreted by the DPO. The students urged the people to build and use toilets and told them that it would cost them only around 2500/- to 3000/- to build a toilet but would save them from a number of diseases. The need to wash hands with soap after going to the toilet to prevent diseases was also emphasized by the students. People in these areas especially children suffer from frequent bouts of diarrhea , dysentery and other water borne diseases due to lack of proper hygiene practices.
Awareness camp on family planning
An awareness camp on Family Planning was held in March 2011 in Nahoroni village under the Boginodi Block PHC, Lakhimpur district, Assam by the districts Boat Clinic Unit. The camp was held to create awareness about the need for planning a family and adopting modern family planning methods . The District Media Expert, NRHM, Lakhimpur,Lucky Biswas present at the camp emphasized on the importance of family planning adding that having too many children was detrimental to the growth of a healthy family and a healthy mother. She spoke about the various methods of Family Planning. A group of artists from the NGO “Joyotisangam” performed a street play on the same theme- the need to have a small family .Leaflets on Family Planning were distributed and the same demonstrated by the District FP counsellor targeting the eligible couples.Towards the end of the play a feedback from the community was taken . Dr. Nayanmoni Dutta, Medical Officer, Tapan Borah, District Programme Officer, Lakhimpur Boat Clinic. Rinkymoni Shill, District FP Counsellor. Joya Roy, a Link Worker of Nahoroni Village and .Juli Payeng, AWW of Nahoroni Village also participated in the camp.
Sanjoy Hazarika appointed member of National Steering Committee on Health
Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee, C-NES was appointed a member of the National Steering Committee on Health, under the auspices of the Planning Commission, Government of India. This follows the completion of six years of the successful Boat Clinics initiative in Assam that has won national and international recognition and which he has designed and led, for the island populations of the Brahmaputra in Assam. The effort has reached over 5 lakh persons in 13 districts, with 15 boat clinics and a staff that has grown from five in 2005 to 240 today. Dr. Sayeda Hameed, member, Planning Commission, is the Chairperson of the Steering Committee.The other members include human rights activist Binayak Sen, Abhijit Das, Centre for Health and Social Justice; Shiraz Prabhu, social activist; Shejo Bose, Janani; Lalitha George, Tribal health Initiative; Sangeetha Reddy; Devi Shetty; Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India; and K.S. Jacob, Christian Medical College.
Rockefeller Fellowship for Hazarika
Sanjoy Hazarika, who was awarded the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residency Fellowship for April-May 2011, for writing a part of his latest book on the North-east and its neighbourhood with a focus on margins, borders, state impunity and its impact on women, especially in conflict situations, has completed the Fellowship. He made a presentation of his project to resident Fellows, who included Scholars from Harvard, Columbia and Oregon Universities and others. Mr. Hazarika is the first person from the North-east to have been awarded the Fellowship, which is located at the Rockefeller Centre in the northern Italian town of Bellagio, above Lake Cumo.
UNICEF team at Dibrugarh camp
A team from UNICEF, Assam comprising of Dr. Sachin Gupte, Health Officer and Consultants,Dr Jhankar Hazarika and Dr Ranjan Barua, visited Dibrugarh districts Sarisuti sapori. to review the health camps. This village is situated about 2 kms away from the river bank where the boat clinic was anchored. The team walked to the village and materials were carried on a bullock cart hired from a villager. The camp was held at the Sarisuti LP and ME School premises after the team pitched the tent. People particularly women with their children were waiting for the health team. Local ASHA Protima Mipun Dang and AWW Ramya lata Kachari were present at the camp where 53 patients were treated, 4 children were immunized and 5 ANCs were conducted.
Citizen Journalism workshop
Gauhati University (GU) hosted a ‘Citizen Journalism and New Media’ workshop in May, 2011 for students of mass communication and journalism at their campus attended by over 150 students from the university’s Mass Communication department, Cotton College and others. The objective of the workshop was to introduce new media and citizen journalism concepts and tools such as blogging, digital storytelling and video to upcoming journalists. Part of the event was a “speed-geeking” session where women professionals spoke about their work and the organization they were associated with. Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami made a presentation on C-NES and its work which evoked keen response from the students. Mr Ashok Rao, Programme Manger, C-NES accompanied her. The event was organized by AssamTimes.org, an online news portal promoting citizen journalism in Assam since 2007 with facilitators from WAVE (www.waveindia.org) – a community video blogging organization.
Sikkim Studies Programme at Jamia
The Centre for North East Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia announced the launch of the Sikkim Studies Programme by Pawan Chamling, Chief Minister of Sikkim, followed by his Lecture on “Regional Parties and their Efficacy in Advancing Nation Building” on April 25, 2011 at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. The Vice Chancellor, Najeeb Jung, IAS, PD Rai, MP from Sikkim and Sanjoy Hazarika, who is director of the Centre and holds the Saifuddin Kitchlew Chair at Jamia Millia, also spoke on the occasion. Earlier on 8th April, the Centre organized “The Sixth of the ATWS Faculty Lecture Series” at the Academy of Third World Studies on “Issues of Refugees and Migration” by Roberto Mignone Dy Representative of the UNHCR in India.
Press Meet on MGNREGA
Manik Boruah, Assistant Programme Manager, C-NES attended a press meet jointly organized by North East Social Trust(NEST) and Centre for Micro- Finance and Livelihoods (MFLs) at Guwahati Press Club on the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)- for the year 2010-11. Arif Hussain, Executive Director, NEST, Partha Patowary, Executive Director, MFLs, Keteki Bardoloi, Executive Director, FST and Amrit Kr. Goldsmith, Retired ED of CASA were present at the meeting along the press reporters.
A review of MNREGA implemented in the state revealed poor performance by the Government according to Arif Hussain who presented the findings of a study conducted by NEST and MFLs.The basic objectives of the Act, which was developed for the BPL families were unmet according to the finding. In Assam it covered only 0.67% BPL families at an average. Only in the district of Dhubri could it cover 1.63%. Again, out of 37 lakh job card holders during the year 2010-11, only 16,000 (0.56%) got 100 days employment, a key objective of the Act. Lack of awareness about the act among the common people and lack of political will were some of the reasons cited by Md. Arif Hussain about the key reason for failure in implementation of the Act in the state when the issue was raised by Manik Boruah.
Environment day by CRS
Under the initiative of C-NES’ Community Radio Station team, the World Environment Day was observed at the CRS station, Maijan on 5th June 2011 where over 25 saplings of medicinal and other tress including Gulmohar were planted by the team members. The day was also observed by the team at Bogpara TE, where over 150 school students participated. The children put up an impressive performance with songs, dances and quiz competitions. Ravi Tanti, CRS Community Reporter facilitated the programmes and recorded it. About 30 saplings were planted by the children and the local community under the initiative of the CRS team. The Manager of the TE agreed to take care of the saplings.
Medical Officers Training
A two day Medical Officers training programme was organized by C-NES in association with NRHM, Govt of Assam, on 3rd and 4th June at Hotel Orchid, Guwahati. The training dealt with issues related to reducing Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in the thirteen Boat Clinic operated districts in Assam, issues extremely relevant to the state. 25 Medical Officers and 4 District Programme Officers from the 15 Boat Clinic units along with members from the PMU were present at the training programme.
The Mission Director, NRMH, DR JB Ekka present at the training said that he was happy to be here with the “special team of doctors” as their work “was special and different, working as they were, under extremely challenging conditions”. Everywhere in India and abroad the Boat Clinics are being appreciated and there have been talks of their being replicated outside Assam. He added that Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate( IMR) are indicators of the health system and Assam being way down in the country on both with MMR at 390 per 10,000,00 live births (latest MMR bulletin by Home Ministry, 7th July, 2011) and IMR at a dismal 61 per 1000, the state needs to focus on maternal and child health Dr Ekka also inaugurated a booklet on Family planning (FP) published by C-NES, funded by PFI for Ashas, AWW, change agents and FP counselors, on the occasion.
Earlier addressing the young doctors in his inaugural speech, noted academician, C-NES Advisory Council Member, Udayon Mishra said that they were fortunate to get involved in this kind of work, where they were not just confined to academic figures but were into the reality scenario. Appreciating the vision and the untiring efforts of the C-NES Managing Trustee Sanjoy Hazarika in translating his innovative concept of the “Ships of Hope” into reality and said, “Lots of people have ideas, very few have the consistency and the luck to translate these ideas to reality.
All sessions witnessed keen and active interactions between the MOs and the resource persons.
Hazarika at Berlin
C-NES Managing Trustee Sanjoy Hazarika visited Berlin, Germany, at the invitation of the Heinrich Boll Foundation with which C-NES has a partnership. It has concluded a major research study on the Impact of Conflict on Women in Assam and Nagaland and also finished filming a documentary on the same issue. The latter is produced and scripted by Mr. Hazarika while Direction and Cinematography are by Maulee Senapati. At the Boll Foundation, Mr. Hazarika met with officers of the Foundation and made a presentation of issues before the North East as well as the work of C-NES in health, education and other sectors of governance. A private screening of the film was also held.
Future possible partnerships were discussed
In addition, Mr. Hazarika met with senior officers handling South Asia at the German Foreign Office where he was hosted for lunch in the historic pre-World War II building and held discussions on the social and political issues before South Asia, including India, Bangladesh and Nepal. They showed a great deal of interest both in conditions of the NER as well as C-NES’ unique and pioneering work, especially as Mr. Hazarika has been made a member of the National Steering Group of Health.
During his visit, Mr. Hazarika called on Mr. Josef Winkler, Member of the Bundestag (German Parliament) from the Green Party and a significant leader of the same. Discussions with the MP and his Parliamentary staff concentrated on issues of rights, legal structures and health and governance issues, including the Boat Clinics initiative. Mr. Hazarika has met with Mr. Wjinkler on earlier visits of the latter and his Parliamentary colleagues to Guwahati and in March 2011 to New Delhi.
‘A clearer profile of C-NES and its unique innovative work was established and developed at various levels, the discussions were substantial and detailed and there is great interest in the issues before the North-east at various levels of Germany, especially on issues of governance, rights and current peace prospects as well as relationships with neigbhours such as Bangladesh and Myanmar,’ Mr. Hazarika says after the meetings.
PHFI Documentary on the Boat Clinics
A documentary on C-NES’ unique Boat Clinics is being developed by the New Delhi based Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). The film is part of a PHFI project supported by the renowned US based renowned Mac Arthur Foundation under the title,” Developing Case Studies of innovations in Public Health for Competency Strengthening and Advocacy”. The film will be used for advocacy and teaching purposes in PHFI’s Indian Institutes as also other educational institutions for illustrating/promoting scaling -up of innovations in health towards improving maternal and newborn health. Kriti, a New Delhi based NGO in association with Blackticket, is producing the film for PHFI.
Accordingly a five member team from PHFi and Kriti recently visited Guwahati for filming the activities of Boat Clinics at Jorhat and Morigaon. The team comprised of Ms Radhika Arora, Ms Madhavi Mishra from PHFI and Ms Rintu Thomas, Mr Sushmit Ghosh and Mr Mayank Khurana from Kriti and Blackticket. The team conducted an hour long interview with Dr J B Ekka, Mission Director of NRHM at his official chamber wherein Dr Ekka spoke highly about the boat clinics.
Boost to Family Planning
Supported by the Sonitpur Boat Clinic team, laparoscopic sterilizations (LS) as part of family planning initiatives were performed on eight women of child bearing age from Sonitpur’s Ashigarh and Ekroti char in June, 2011 at the Kanaklata Civil hospital, Tezpur. Along with reducing the high Maternal Mortality Rate at 390 per 10,000,00 live births (latest MMR bulletin by Home Ministry, 7th July, 2011), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR- 61 per 1000) in Assam, reducing the high Total Fertility Rate (TFR- 2.6) in the state is an important focus area of C-NES’ Boat Clinic health initiatives under NRHM.
The beneficiaries for LS were accompanied by two Anganwadi workers (AWWs) from the concerned chars and an ASHA from Ashigarh char. The Boat Clinic team provided the referral boat service for transporting the beneficiaries to and fro as most chars including these chars lack regular boat services. The community worker and a boat crew member from the Boat Clinic unit were sent to Ashigarh char in the referral boat a day ahead for the purpose.
The Boat Clinic health team led by Moushumi Duwarah, the District Programme Officer (DPO)and Bonobithi Das , Family Planning Counselor (FPC) made the necessary arrangements for the operation much before the beneficiaries arrived including informing doctors, nurses, laboratory technician, hospital in charge, ambulance driver and administrative staff for incentives. The operations were conducted successfully and the beneficiaries given free medicines and Rs 600 each as an incentive. The AWWs were given incentives of Rs. 500 (for each beneficiary) as per the NRHM norm. After constant awareness sessions by the health team, the people are becoming aware of the importance of family planning and have started using different methods, observed team members.
Earlier in May, 2011 women from two different chars ( 3 from Tinikur and two from Ekroti char) had undergone LS on 12th May 2011 at Kanaklata Civil Hospital.