By the Brahmaputra (Vol: 19)
(For the quarter July – September 2012)
Ajeeb dastaan hai yeh: learning from Mary
Ajeeb dastaan hain ye, sang the small, slim figure, while her husband accompanied her on the guitar. She was in casuals, jeans and shirt; he was in a dark suit as were many of the men at the dinner although the women from the North-east were clad in their colourful best, many in their traditional dresses.
The diminutive singer was Mary Kom, endowed with a beautiful voice, who has become a national heroine – apart from her iconic status in Manipur – for her courageous battles in the boxing ring at the Olympics in the 51 kg category and a five-time World Women’s boxing champion in her weight, 48 kgs.
In London, she was fighting opponents who were heavier, taller and stronger but managed to best and oust them until her battle with the British boxer who eventually took the gold. In Delhi, the other evening, at a reception hosted by DP Singh, the chairman of the Punjab National Bank and his wife, Dingi Sailo, daughter of the former (and first non-Congress) Chief Minister of Mizoram Brig. T. Sailo, Mary sang magnificently.
Earlier, she had admonished her husband who wasn’t keeping pace on the guitar, much to the amusement of the large gathering, but then choked when she spoke of how much she had wanted to win gold but had to bring home a bronze. I’m sorry I let you down she said, her voice breaking.
Everyone was moved. No, no, came many voices – you’re our champion, we are all proud of you and so is the country. I think that everyone was moved by the simple and unaffected honesty of Mary and her ability to share her difficulties. The evening belong to Mary, who held her own, despite speeches by others, both long and short, and who received a shower of gifts and presents with grace, including a silk gamosa that I presented her.
During her remarks, I was wishing that our governing political class and the permanent executive (read bureaucracy) as well as our talking heads (read anchors) could have shown some of that humility: would the first have ever apologized for letting down the people who had elected them; after all, the first mandate of an elected government is to provide law and order and a sense of security to the ordinary citizens. Would the bureaucrats have bowed their heads in collective shame for not moving in time? Would the talking heads reduced their rhetoric and kept quiet for a little while instead of going on and on unendingly about what was happening. The right to information does not mean saturation of networks and viewers with repetitive hype, approaching hysteria and playing on the emotions of people.
As far as the politician class is concerned and the bureaucracy, they need to act and demonstrate the capacity to act against those who are involved in criminal attacks and conspiracies. Merely saying sorry is not good enough. The media needs to function especially in the region with greater responsibility – although this may be a contradiction in terms as most people seem to think that the media by its very presence means and promotes irresponsible conduct (both visual media as well as print). This may not be the case but unfortunately this has become the overwhelming impression.
In addition to this is the impact of new media – mobile phone technology has brought the world even closer to our doorsteps, no matter how far or isolated a settlement in which we may live. Should the connection be there — and it may be a shared connection in a family or in the privileged power space of the village head or teacher – information is shared and disseminated widely and swiftly. The question often is: what kind of information is being transmitted and shared? If it correct, could it lead to incitement, the conduct of crime (s) or the spread of fear through hate speech/messages? How much of a control or restraint should be exercised on such new media and who should exercise that control/restraint?
The Government of India tried ham-handedly to control the spiraling wave of messages and fear targeting groups from the North-east in different parts of the country by coming down with a heavy hand on various websites, social networking sites including a few Twitter accounts. It blocked the use of bulk SMS’ for some time but now it’s back to usual for those who flood our phones with calls to invest in fancy apartments that we are ever unlikely to see or in fancier sculpted bodies through jaccuzis, spas and gyms.
The key Central Ministry for such action is not the Ministry for Information Technology or even the Law Ministry but the Ministry of Home Affairs which sanctions the tapping of phones, goes after ‘enemies’ (perceived and read) of the State and so on. Its job is that of Big Brother, as Super Snoop, and its personnel are not trained to look at issues in the long term or particularly at the nuances of possible strategies but largely, I believe, to fix problems.
Perhaps it all becomes a bit too much for the Ministry of Home Affairs when it has, in addition to dealing with national security issues and other ‘normal issues’ such as insurgency and radical threats from clerics, ethnic groups and Maoists, also have to handle the promoters of hate emails and messages. The latter is seen as a process which can lead to rioting and fear-fuelled exoduses as we saw in July and August from the Southern States and Pune. But clearly, it is not equipped to do so – this is more than cyber crime, it is using simple existing technology and providing it the opportunism of extremism. As I have said before, it was the cheapest and perhaps the least physically violent way of terrorizing large groups of people.
But it also tells us three other things: one is that those who worked and lived in those areas before fleeing and then quietly returning were blue collar workers who had not ‘integrated’ or been able to understand the local social milieu of their work places, nor perhaps have the ‘local residents’ and local leaders made much of an effort to make them feel secure, if not at home. The second thing that the profile of those who left and returned reflects is the desperate economic conditions in Assam and other parts of the North-east – despite the tom-toming by the Assam state government of how conditions have improved and we are the state with the seventh best Human Development Index in the country: in that case why would tens of thousands of youth go to work as security guards, cooks, front office staff and other non-technical, non-specialized jobs? Would they go and work in Guwahati, Imphal or elsewhere for Rs 5,000 or Rs 6,000 as they are over there: from the remarks they made to reporters, apparently they are able to save and send money back home but also live with a modicum of dignity and safety. Our talking heads in the North-east and elsewhere, on news channels and print media, would do well to take the trains to these areas and report and write about the conditions in which our rural jobless (at home) youth live in Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad and why they would still choose to live there and not their home states.
And it provides a great opportunity for local media in their area of settlement, civil society organizations, bureaucrats, police and politicians to meet and talk with them, open dialogues, open the minds sets. We have to break mindsets, not heads.
Finally, in all that has been said about the social media or social networking sites, we forget one absolutely fundamental fact: if the ‘old’ media wasn’t around to report the kind of content on these sites on news channels and widely circulated newspapers and magazine, if they hadn’t run with the story or carried it in such detail, the blocking of content would not become such an issue. So, the ‘old’ media – those dinosaurs – are not going extinct soon: they’re around and robustly so, in the age of digital divides and connectivity.
But, in closing, let’s go back to Mary Kom: the reason I opened this column with her was that meeting made me feel very humble, it made me amazed at the quality of our real heroes who are modest and kind, that they have fought the system all the way to get to where they are, without big bucks (our pampered cricketers) or big government (fat babus and fatter politicos) but on their own and despite the horrible conditions in which they live. And they shine, despite all these challenges and crisis: that gives me hope for those in even out the schools converted into refugee camps of Bodoland and elsewhere, the work places of Bangalore and Pune, that Mary Koms and Sunil Chetris may rise too from there, despite the trauma, terror, prejudice and violence. They’re the champions.
Kyu ki … Ajeeb Daastan Hain Yeh.
(From his regular column in the Assam Tribune published on 5th September 2012)
A marooned team
With the Brahmaputra in full spate and floods ravaging Assam , the Tinsukia Boat Clinic SB “Swaminathan” named after its donor, prominent editor -economist, Swaminathan S Aiyar, covering the eastern most fringes of the nation with basic health services, for most the first times ever in their lives, was marooned for six days- from 21st to 26th June 2012. Stranded in the boat in the midst of the mighty river, the team spent sleepless night onboard even as the boat swung helplessly to and fro buffeted by strong waves. The team tried their best to keep spirits high, to still smile together, bonded by the strong camaraderie they shared. Most were dehydrated as drinking water was over. Nurses Kaushalya Tanti, GNM and Rupali Dutta, ANM were pregnant. Even in the midst of so much turmoil, the team continued providing medical services to people who came to the Boat Clinic in small country boats for all days they were marooned. About 35- 40 people were given treatment. The villagers in turn brought food stuff for the team they were so fond of. The Boat Clinic was their friend, ever reliable.
The team was finally airlifted on 27th June by an IAF helicopter. The PMU, C-NES the district administration and the armed forces worked in close collaboration in the rescue mission. The boat crew stayed behind .They would sail back to Dhola Ghat helped by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). A committed team was back at the same area the next week to complete the camp schedule.
Dr Debarshi Paul (facing camera) and Dr Ritesh Kalra checking up patients at Amarpur’s Moinapara village even while the team was marooned
Pilots from IAF skillfully preparing to land on the only available plot of dry area for airlifting the team
The rescued team members
Boat Clinic teams in Flood relief
During the recent floods in Assam which inundated most chars and bank line villages, Boat Clinic teams in all 15 districts units in close coordination with district administration were actively involved in providing medical help to the affected people. Units in some districts also helped in relief and rescue operation.
The Joint Director of Health Services and District Health Societies issued formal instructions to the boat clinic units to hold camps in badly affected chars, providing additional Medical Officers from a few MMUs to accompany the teams. The relief camps were conducted in embankments where people take shelter during floods. The SDM & HO of Bhagnamari CHC Dr. K.N. Boro accompanied the Nalbari team. In the relief camps baby food and milk for children were distributed. At Barpeta the Barpeta-Mandia road was completely damaged with big potholes. The Barpeta II health team visited the inundated areas and provided medical and related services to the flood affected people. The Barpeta Unit I relief camp was conducted under instructions from Joint Director, DHS and SDM & HO of Nowgoan PHC. At Dibrugarh and Tinsukia almost all cultivated lands were covered by sand/ silt. Flood waters from the overflowing Dibru, Dibang and Siang flooded villages. Many lost their livestock. The health teams met people who have lost entire herd of 200-250 buffaloes. At Jorhat, the Deputy Commissioner Mr. Ramesh Chandra Jain and JDHS- Dr. Sarat Chandra Das requested the Boat Clinic to conduct flood relief camps in Sikoli sapori to which all road connections were closed due to heavy flood in Majuli. Responding to people’s need, the Boat Clinic team informed the Deputy Commissioner about the need for veterinary service in the affected areas. Accordingly veterinary services were provided to 10 saporis .The team also distributed cloths for the children in Major sapori and Kansha sapori. At Kamrup the local MLA Rakibuddin Ahmed accompanied the health team to visit a flood ravaged camp at Nayapara on 3rd July 2012. At Bongaigaon, as directed by the Deputy Commissioner cum Chairman of District Health society (DHS), the Boat Clinic unit was provided with DDT and phenyl to carry to the water logged areas distributed by the community workers. General awareness about cleanliness and hygiene that can prevent occurrence of most of vector borne disease was given. The teams also talked to the villagers about precautions that need to be taken during and after floods including outbreak of water borne diseases, sanitation and hygiene, importance clean food, pure drinking water and hand washing. Halogen tablets, phenol solutions, antiseptic lotions were distributed. During floods, most tube-wells get submerged leading to the outbreak of diseases as people use flood water for domestic consumption and also drinking. Fever, cough, skin infections, diarrhea, helminthesis were common.
Earlier on 30th April 2012, in the Medartary Boat tragedy at Dhubri where over 200 lives were lost, the Dhubri Boat Clinic Unit I and the Goalpara team took active part in the rescue operation. On 15th June 2012, the Bongaigaon Boat Clinic team played a crucial role in search and rescue operation when a boat with people and cattle capsized in the river Champa.
Flood relief camp at Majuli’s Kansha Sapori
Veterinary team at Missamora 2
Clothes distributed at Major sapori.
Medicines distributed at a Nalbari camp
Workshop at Trivandrum
Dr Dipankar Das, CEO, C-NES participated in a National Consultation, organized jointly by Centre for Development Studies and UN Women on” Engendering Health: The Experience of NRHM” at Trivandrum, Kerela from 5-6 July 2012. Taking part at the technical session, under “Innovative Initiatives” of NRHM, Dr Das spoke on the innovative boat clinics in Assam, a high focus state in the NRHM programme under C-NES in a PPP model with NRHM which was widely appreciated by the participants being the only one of its kind in India. Dr Pulapre Balakrishnan, Director, Centre for Development Studies, was the chairperson at the inaugural session, while the Chief Guest was Ms Anne Stenhammer,Regional Programme Director, UN Women. Dr Vandana Jena, senior advisor, planning commission delivered the inaugural address. Other participants who participated were from leading NGOs of the country who were members of some of the drafting committee of various Government of India Health Policies, Faculty from IIM, Bangalore, officials from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI and National Health System Resource Centre, New Delhi
Medical Officers Training
A three day training progamme on “Routine Immunization” was organized along with Joint Director (Health) Dibrugarh and Dept of SPM,Assam Medical College and Hospital(AMCH), sponsored by UNICEF from 29th-31st August 2012 at the District Family Planning Training Centre, AMC, Dibrugarh.The training was inaugurated by Dr Banthai ,JD ,Dibrugarh and addressed by Dr Sachin Gupte from UNICEF and Dr Dipankar Das,CEO,C-NES. All the Medical officers of C-NES who had not undergone the training earlier along with the newly appointed GNMs of C-NES participated in the training.The training was facilitated by the Faculty of Department of SPM, AMC wherein various issues on immunization were addressed through a Modular exercise and audio video presentations. The district officer of UNICEF also actively coordinated the training. Interactive discussion on the implementation of RI and issues specific to the char/sapori areas were also addressed and feasible problems resolved as to further augment performance of such service within the community.
Awareness campaign by Dibrugarh team
Assisted by the Brahmaputra Community Radio Station (BCRS), an awareness campaign on health and sanitation was conducted by the Dibrugarh Boat Clinic team. People living in chars under the Panitola PHC were badly affected by floods. Most had lost their homes and farm land in the recent floods and were displaced. The team headed for Romai village situated deep inside the Dibru Saikhowa National Park on a country boat. This was the first visit of the year to this area. The BCRS team headed by coordinator Bhaskar Bhuyan, arranged for talks on an awareness session on diarrhea and Cholera which takes an epidemic form in upper Assam, particularly in tea gardens. The DPO initiated the session followed by discussions on health issues and prevention with inputs from MOs and the BCRS coordinator. The team extended medical care to the people living in the camps. The playing of the radio talks, promos and folk songs went on which people listened to attentively and enjoyed. A mock phone in program was carried out , where villagers, ASHAs, ANMs and AWWs learnt how to take part in such a radio programmes.
ABITA officials visit CRS:
Officials from the Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association(ABITA) including Mr Chandan Bora, Vice Chairman, Mr. Sandeep Ghosh, Secretary ABITA, Zone-1, Mr. Monojit Das Gupta, Secretary General, Indian Tea Association, Calcutta, Mr. Arijit Raha, Adl. Secretary of ITA and Mr. Dhiraj Kakoti, Secretary, ABITA, Guwahati visited C-NES’ Brahmaputra Community Radio Station (BCRS) at Maijan, Dibrugarh on 27th June 2012. It needs mention that ABITA has supported C-NES with a donation amount of Rs 1.20 lakh as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the BCRS. The amount was used to purchase essential equipments such as computers and recorders for the upcoming station. The BCRS which is now fully equipped, staffed and expected to broadcast later this year will be broadcast in five languages Bhojpuri,Assamese,Mishing, Bodo and Shadri, the dialect of the tea tribe community (prominent in the nearby areas) and will thereby reach a large number of tea garden community members on diverse issues extremely relevant to them including health, education and entertainment leading to overall development of the community. The officials interacted with the BCRS team.The coordinator Bhaskar Bhuyan’s gave a short presentation of the BCRS activities and program structure. The officials appreciated the activities undertaken by BCRS so far and assured of future support.
ABITA officials at BCRS
The visitors inside the studio
BCRS team interacts with Red Ribbon Express
Red Ribbon Express, an exhibition on wheels, run by the National AIDS Control Organization to create awareness about HIV/AIDS, prevention and treatment among the masses, especially rural youth, reached Dibrugarh’s Banipur Station on 23rd August and was open for public on 23rd and 24th August. The BCRS team visited the Red Express at Banipur station. The community reporters from mainland villages and tea gardens including saporis along with BCRS coordinator Bhaskar Bhuyan participated and interviewed the organizers, teachers and students present. The reporters recorded what the participants and organizers of the events had to share and inform including students from schools and colleges, health workers, NRHM officials. National AIDS Control Organization members shared information about the purpose of the training. Several educational and awareness camps were conducted at educational institutes wherein children participated in competitive events like painting and essay writing. In rural pockets, the awareness campaigns predominantly employed folk performances as a medium.The Red Express is slated to cover 162 stations across 23 states of the country.
BCRS Reporter Monalisa Baithak interviewing a teacher
DPM,NRHM Dibrugarh Monisha Borgohain being interviewd by Pinku Gohan,BCRS reporter
BCRS reporters at the station
Awareness camp at Goalpara
Around 150 people gathered for the Mega Awareness program held in Goalpara’s Bamuneralga-I on 17th July 2012 by the districts Boat Clinic team to sensitize the people on day to day issues on health and hygiene, consumption of boiled water, avoiding consuming extra salt during meals. Immunizations, family planning methods were also highlighted. The resource person for the program was Mr. Shahinur Islam, Pharmacist; Dr. Enus Salim, Medical Officer, Mr. Nur Islam, Lab Tech, and Mr. Hingulas Khakhalary, DPO. The Boat Clinic Team also organized sports for the children of the char village and distributed several prizes for the winners. Happy with the work of the team, Ancher Ali, President of the village committee commented “no any department or officials have taken such initiative to organize program like this. I thank you all and wish great success”.
Family Planning initiative at Bongaigaon
As part of the World Population Month (August-September 2012), the district administration asked the Bongaigaon Boat Clinic to perform IUCD and to refer NSV and Laparoscopy acceptors to the selected MPHC. The camps were accordingly held. 6 women were successfully inserted copper-T. More were expected in the coming camps. In collaboration with the District Family welfare, the Bongaigaon Boat Clinic Unit put special emphasis on family planning and in each char(river island) advocated a stop to early marriage and early pregnancy, consumption of IFA tablets, delay of first child, spacing between two children and adoption of family planning methods. Special emphasis was also given on routine immunization. The team walked to the interior of villages and counseled parents on the same.
C-NES at GIZ workshop
Manik Boruah, Assistant Programme Manger C-NES participated in a workshop on Promoting Sustainable & Inclusive Businesses in the NE Region on 27th July 2012 at Guwahati organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) Guwahati supported by Intellecap and Ernst & Young. Attended by over 25 participants, the workshop was a part of a joint initiative to support small and growing businesses (sustainable and inclusive enterprises) in the region. The workshop was designed for early-stage enterprises that are operating in the North-East states of India, and are focused on providing products and services to low-income markets at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP). GIZ is a German based international organization working on sustainable development and international education work covering 130 countries with a total of 17000 employees. It offers support on capacity development, ecosystem support, knowledge and market transparency, policy and advocacy. Currently GIZ is concentrating NER for strengthening of small and medium scale industries.
The participants were welcomed by Ms. Katherine Miles, Senior Manager- Advisory services, Climate Change and Sustainability services, Ernst & Young. The welcome address was followed by a brief introduction about GIZ and the objective of the workshop by Ms. Aparajita Agrawal, Co-Founder and Director, Intellecap. Representing C-NES, Manik Boruah spoke about the Ford Foundation supported river Dolphin Conservation project of C-NES in which the organization tried to establish community based eco- tourism and dairy development as alternative livelihoods amongst former dolphin hunters in Assam and took initiatives towards improvement of rural livelihoods.
Held as a flagship innovative programme by the Government of Assam, the Central Government and UNICEF, the Boat Clinics have been written about extensively in local, regional, national and international media. Mr. Patrick Shepard from UK, Director of Elephant Song visited the Boat Clinic unit at Tinsukia on 7th July 2012 to produce a documentary on the boat clinic and covered two health camps at Karmi and Nepun traveling to Amarpur from Dhola. Reaching Moinapara ghat at 10.30 AM the team attended camps at Nepun and Karmi villages with the help of a hired tractor reaching Nepun LP school at 12 PM and attending the camp till 2.30 PM. Patrick asked the team members about various aspects of the Boat Clinic health initiative like-problems in medicine storage, transporting and dispensing how HB test is done in the boat and its significance, the average Hb % among women in char area, the facilities for lab tests in the boat, problems and challenges for MOs in the boat clinic and the strategies to manage or mitigate, common prevalent diseases, average patient load in camps, how the RI is carried out, vaccines administered under RI, ANC & PNC check ups, FP services, major issues for navigation, safety measures in the boat.. He also talked with the patients for a feedback.Elephant Song is an independent production house based in New Delhi and London whose output is primarily factual, current affairs, lifestyle and travel. Their films have received acclaim for their intimate portrayals of challenging subjects. The link :
Journalist at Nalbari camp
Assam’s boat clinics deliver health services – and hope
By Azera Parveen Rahman
Nalbari (Assam), July 11 (IANS) Amid pouring monsoon rain, men, women and children run alongside the torrential Brahmaputra, waving at people in white coats on a boat. This is their boat of hope – a floating clinic, equipped with basic medical facilities and manned by doctors and paramedics taking healthcare to people in far-flung island villages that are deprived of it.
“Come here! We have many patients; old and feeble, women and children!” said Rakibur Hussain, one of the island dwellers. But the clinic was on its way to another island close by, where a health camp had been organised.
Hussain was disappointed but not for long.
After a quick discussion, a paramedic on the boat clinic screamed back: “We will come back, pick up your patients, and take them to the health camp in Baleswar (the other island). Is that ok?”
The small crowd at the embankment cheered back.
For the nearly three million people on the 2,500 islands on the Brahmaputra, amongst Asia’s largest rivers, the floating clinics are literally their lifeline.
With hospitals a far cry and communication made even worse during floods, the unique initiative of boat clinics by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (CNES) is a ray of hope for the most vulnerable communities of Assam living on the ‘saporis’ or islands of the Brahmaputra.
The journey of these ‘ships of hope’, as they are popularly known, began in 2005, with a single boat called Akha (or hope) in Dibrugarh district of upper Assam. The initiative got the support of the district health authorities.
The successful intervention in reaching out to the marginalised, rural communities got the attention and support of Unicef and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Assam, resulting in a public-private partnership (PPP) and the subsequent spread of the boat clinic programme to 13 districts of the state with 15 boats.
In Baleswar, the tiny island near Nalbari, 70 km from Guwahati, Amina Begum recounted her experience at the boat clinic, as she waited in a queue to see the doctor in the health camp.
“Initially, there was some hesitation. The elders in the village felt that this was a temporary arrangement and there was no need to show excitement, since they will not return a second time. Moreover,there were reservations in getting the women checked by male doctors,” Begum, who is pregnant with her second child, told IANS.
“But when we saw the dedication of the doctors and nurses, got the medicines for immediate treatment, and saw them return time and again, we knew that they really cared for us. Now we wait for the clinic eagerly,” she added.
“The boat clinic is a blessing for us,” added Sakina, another patient with a skin infection. “Going to the hospital is not easy from here. We have to pay and take a boat trip to the mainland. It becomes difficult for the elderly, the pregnant women to go, especially when the weather is harsh.”
While its special focus is on women and children, and clinic visits are timed in accordance with the immunisation schedule, its ultimate aim is to take sustained healthcare to islands.
Bedanta Sarma and Minhazuddin Ahmed, the two young doctors in the team of 16 members including auxilliary nurse midwives (ANMs), laboratory technician and others in this district, said their job satisfaction was unparalleled.
“It’s not just about treatment. We also shoulder the responsibility of educating and making the people aware, fighting superstitions,and finally, offering hope. Both of us (doctors) have returned to this job after having left it, and are here for nearly three years now,” Ahmed told IANS.
Early marriage and family planning are two issues that the team has been educating the masses about. The boat clinics also have laboratories where blood tests can be done and pharmacies which give free medicines as prescribed by the doctor.
While the work has been effective, it is nevertheless very challenging for the health teams as sometimes at the risk of their own health and safety, points out Sanjoy Hazarika, the managing trustee of CNES.
“For instance, the water level has to be at least three to four feet deep for the motorboat to move and there have been times when boats have got stuck in one of the river’s channels and the team has had to go on foot for as much as 10 km to the villages,” Dipankar Das, chief executive officer of CNES, told IANS.
“In monsoons, the floods again wreak havoc. Just last month, one of our boats with 12 team members had to be rescued by Indian Air Force helicopters, as they got stranded in the swelled up river while going on a mission,” he added.
But come what may, these boats of hope continue to bring respite to the marginalised.
–Indo-Asian News Service
Baby Boy at Jorhat’s Bhimpara sapori
While on a routine health trip, the Jorhat Boat Clinic team helped 21 year old Chimpi Bora from the remote Bhimpara sapori(sand bar )deliver a healthy male baby on 21st September 2012. The newly appointed MO Dr Gautam Das, GNM Elizabeth Kom successfully conducted the delivery. The woman was under labour and in severe pain since morning in her flood submerged home and there was no way she could be taken to a health centre for delivery as all road connections were closed. The local Asha,Majan Bora requested the Boat Clinic team, while the Boat was anchored at Bhimpara to attend to the woman at her house. Wading through knee high water the team reached the villager’s home and assisted her in the delivery. There was severe flood and erosion at Bhimpara that day. All villages near Bhimpara were badly affected. The Boat Clinic was the only hope for the pregnant lady and her household. This was the third delivery conducted by the Jorhat Boat Clinic, the first was in Februaray 2011 and eleventh successful, safe delivery conducted on the boat clinics till date – Five in Dibrugarh, two in Dhemaji, one in Barpeta and three in Jorhat. 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. 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, higher than Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, and a high Infant Mortality Rate.
The health team wading through flood waters to reach the villager’s home
A happy team comprising MO Dr Gautam Das, GNM Elizabeth Kom,DPO Riturekha Baruah, Pharmacist Deep Jyoti Nath, Lab technician,Achyut Das, community workers
55 years old Arumoni Regon lives in Pamua village of Laika sapori in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district with her 65year old husband Dekasor Regon. She has two grown up sons who are married with two children each. Both Arumoni and Dekasor have a strong presence in the village because of their positive outlook and good decision making ability. Arumoni is happy about the regular visit of the boat clinic to her village. She feels that the boat clinic services have provided good service to the people living in remote villages like Pamua, particularly to pregnant women, as they had limited access to health services earlier. She talks about the situation prior to the intervention of the Boat Clinics when pregnant mothers had to cross the river in full spate during floods and the dense Dibru-Saikhowa reserve forest to access health check-ups in Government health centers due to which pregnant mothers were reluctant to attend regular check-ups and delivered at home at their own risk. Maternal mortality rates were therefore high along with death of infants. Arumoni encourages pregnant mothers to attend health camps and mentions that risk factors during delivery has got lesser due to early detection of high risk cases and early referral of these cases for proper institutional care with the Boat Clinic health camps. She also advocates family planning methods among young couples so that they can have a better life even in the hardship of the sapori.
Workshop at Jamia Millia Islamia
The Centre for North East Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, organized a workshop on September 3, 2012, on the recent situation in Assam, the largest state of the North-East, hit by extensive violence, including killings and arson, between different groups as well as the flight of the displaced to relief camps involving activists, policy makers, journalists and scholars who have visited the affected areas and who shared their experiences and thoughts. This was followed by discussions drawing on different perspectives to understanding the situation and to see how accommodations can be reached.
Prof. Sanjoy Hazarika giving introduction to the discussion while Mr. Najeeb Jung, IAS, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia, listening attentively
A section of high profile participants, including Diplomats, former High Commissioner and eminent scholars
In view of the recent violence in Assam, Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee C-NES, an expert on the region, was interviewed by the New York Times, BBC, Time Magazine , CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, Los Angeles times, Australian Broadcasting Corp, NDTV and NDTV India. He also wrote columns and articles for the Hindustan Times, Times of India, Outlook, Hindu and the Assam Tribune in effort to explain the tragedy and trauma of Assam and addressed a public discussion at Jawarharlal Nehru University with an audience of over 150 students.