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C-NES Newsletter (April – June 2014)

By the Brahmaputra (Vol: 26)
C-NES Newsletter
(For the quarter April – June 2014)


By the Brahmaputra 

Of Car Parks and Governance

While looking at some old expense vouchers, part of an effort to refurbish the home in Shillong, I came across the tiny stub of a car park ticket.

The yellow stub said ‘Mylliem Syiemship’, Shillong.  That was the name of the contractor of the parking lot; not an individual or the local municipal authority but the former ‘kingdom’ of Mylliem.  We should note that there hasn’t been a municipal council in Shillong for over 40 years because of opposition from different quarters; but that’s a different story and the subject of a separate column.

The Mylliem Syiemship is part of a network of 25 traditional Khasi kings or Syiems who ran small and major kingdoms, elected by clans and their Myntris (mantris/ministers) in Dorbar (Durbar).  The parking fee is a route that the state government in Meghalaya uses to help maintain Mylliem’s Syiemship which sprawls across much of Shillong and moves down to the plains of Assam near Jorabat, where a tri-junction of roads sits between crumbling hills, a rising overbridge, denuded teak forests and a messy but energetic new four lane highway connecting the Assam Valley to the Khasi Hills.

It is interesting that the Constitution, through the Sixth Schedule, recognizes a form of government at the ‘local’ or district level under the Autonomous Hill District Councils, which are elected on a party basis.  These are modeled loosely on the cabinet structure and look after at least 10 subjects including taxation, management and allotment of local lands for agriculture and markets, playgrounds, marriage and inheritance. These subjects have been hugely expanded in the case of the Bodoland Territorial Council, which has 39 subjects (virtually a state, barring control of police).

The Bodo case saw special amendments pushed through Parliament as part of a political management package, to reduce the conflict against the state government as well as the Government of India and to ensure that the Bodos, though a minority in this very region which they govern, will wield political, economic and social power in perpetuity.  The reaction to that was visible when HiraSarania, former of ULFA, hammered three Bodo candidates in the LokSabha elections for Kokajhar.

However, the Constitution makes no mention of traditional systems like the Syiemships, which, for long, have had a say in how the people of a state like Meghalaya are governed. Of course, there are valid grounds for criticism against them: they are unrepresentative, women are not on their governing councils and they are a mixture of feudalism and some elements of democracy.

In Meghalaya, although the Syiems, the Dolois and Nokmas of the Jaintias and Garos, the two other major tribes, barely have a cursory role in the legal system, they continue to be significant.

While functioning outside the Constitutional framework, they are respected by their former subjects. In fact, the State government finds it easier to give responsibilities to the Syiems and the traditional headman or RangbahShnong, who continue to issue certificates of residency, collect parking fees, intervene in local disputes and set up neighborhood watch patrols.

TheKhasi did not cede power to New Delhi when the Constitution was adopted in 1950. But their powers and ability to decisively intervene in matters of state and determine the future of their tribes, has, according to The Los Angeles Times, ‘been steadily whittled away by district councils that many accuse of corruption and mismanagement’.

There are sharp contestations between the Syiems and local politicians, especially in the District Councils, which are seen as the spring-board for young aspiring politicians for a role in state politics.  But the latter have little scope, with their limited budgets and powers, to play any significant role in matters of state.  Real power resides with the state government, funded as it is by grants from the Centre, implementing projects and programmes through its line departments.  The others are no match for the state, something that troubles both votaries of the traditional system and the District Councils.

For years, there has been a debate also about the role of the district councils and whether they serve any useful purpose in a small state where the Government is in the hands of majority tribal groups. Government departments, as in other states, build the roads, health clinics and hospitals, develop communications, drive the education process, employ lakhs and create the economy. Articles in the local media as well as supporters of the traditional system question the existence of the district councils saying they represent a waste of resources in a fund-strapped state.

What is not acceptable is the demand that the powers of the district councils be handed over lock, stock and barrel to the traditional processes, which are not accountable to the people and have not been elected by them. Substantial thinking about radical changes in the traditional systems is needed to make them more transparent, democratic, as well as gender sensitive and more representative.

Those who argue against the district councils often point to the example of Mizoram, which disbanded the district councils in the Mizo-majority areas when it attained statehood in 1986, but retained them in the three tiny enclaves of the Mara, Lai and Chakma tribes, which barely number 50,000 each.  Mizoram was able to do that 28 years ago. Is there a similar rationale for small states like Meghalaya or for Tripura?

A number of Central Government Committees, headed by eminent scholars and former bureaucrats, have looked into these issues.  Most of their recommendations, as with most Government Committees, lie somewhere between a dusty archive and a dustbin, unheeded, unread and for the most part unimplemented.

The issue is not of the future of the District Councils but to look at the best way of providing good governance and delivery of promises and services.  Perhaps one way is to merge some of the functions of the District Councils and the traditional systems, bringing greater transparency and effectiveness to both. This would not just give the latter a modicum of recognition and constitutional legitimacy, for which it thirsts, but also act as a check and balance on either side.

All three systems have abysmally failed when it comes to handling the upsurge of violence by various non-state armed groups in the Garo Hills, including murders, kidnappings, extortion and intimidation, which have become a way of life for ordinary people.  What is surprising is the seeming slackness of the state government and the Centre if not reluctance in launching a no-holds barred campaign against the armed groups in the Garo hills area. All appear to be silently watching the killing scenario.

Neither the district councils or the traditional systems have a direct role in the law enforcement machinery but they have failed to fulfill their moral mandate — mobilize public support against the brutality of both armed groups and government forces.

The verdict of the National Green Tribunal shutting down ‘rat hole mining’, as the dangerous private mines especially in the Jaintia Hills are called, is another test for both traditional and Constitutional bodies. They have been found grossly wanting. What has been truly extraordinary is the way that the mine owners and their lobbies, including politicians like Vincent Pala, the MP from Shillong who is a prominent mine owner himself, are seeking to overturn the order, claiming it is hurting their livelihoods.

These are groups and individuals who have made vast profits over the past decades. They have also provided a steady source of taxation and income for both traditional and elected bodies, which are thereby complicit in the conditions which prevail in the coal pits. Many young boys work in terrible conditions and at great physical danger in these mines. One is not even talking of the damage to the beautiful, long limestone caves in the Garo Hills which are of no interest to the coal barons and their networks across the North-east. All they had needed to do was temper their greed and invest in a fraction of their profits into mine safety, decent education and shelter for labour, and ensure that children were not employed in these toxic depths.

Managing Trustee

(From his regular column in the Assam Tribune published on June 18, 2014)

C-NES Intern reports

Rohil Jethmalini
International studies, FLAME University, Pune

Experiences with the Boat Clinics 

A Mising (ethnic tribe) village at  upper Assam's Lakhimpur district with houses built on stilts to escape the wrath of floods
A Mising (ethnic tribe of Assam) village at upper Assam’s Lakhimpur district with houses built on stilts to escape the wrath of floods

Living on the chars (river islands) at the mercy of the mighty network of rivers in Assam is an insecure life to say the least. With eminent erosion and frequent floods, their access to food and shelter is continually challenged. Yet, at least on the surface, they seem to be a carefree and welcoming people. Their lives (in most villages) seem to be healthy and quite enjoyable. Occurrences of diseases are on the low, though in many places the river water seems to have mixed with the ground water tables, making it unfit for drinking. This coupled with neglect for hygiene, are the greatest detriments to their health (during the monsoon season). With nowhere to go for medical help, these issues escalate in seriousness. The boat clinics are a godsend to those few with serious ailments, while they are also very necessary for the overall health of these settlements. Additionally they also raise awareness about how slight lifestyle changes accrete to living a fuller and healthier life. While in Lakhimpur, I largely frequented Mising villages. It is customary for them to serve you Apong (a local beer made from rice and a few herbs) when you enter their household.  They consider it to be very healthy and say that children in the villages start to drink it at the age of 3-5 in small quantities. They are quite a humorous people, and I’ve been playfully been made fun of by the grandparent generation on a couple of occasions.

Children waiting for their turn at a health camp at upper Assam’s Jorhat district
Children waiting for their turn at a health camp at upper Assam’s Jorhat district

In Jorhat district, I visited a few displaced villages in the general boat clinic operational area. In one household, while talking to the mother and grandmother, I was aggrieved to learn that floods during the last monsoon had forced them to shift from a river island to the mainland. They had lost all their land and were not compensated for it. To sustain themselves they had to work as wage labourers on other’s fields. They had salvaged a few animals (cows, chicken and goats) during the floods, but all had been sold recently to feed the family. They said they were finding it hard to give their children enough food and are expecting to be displaced again this year. If so, their already pitiable condition would only worsen.  After conversing with them, they insisted that I eat lunch there. I kindly declined, but was overwhelmed with their ability to give even when their own well-being was in question. Many of us lucky to be bestowed with all that we need forget to be grateful for it. Being with these people was a harsh reminder for all that I take for granted. Though, I’d still maintain that many of those living on the Chars, though faced with uncertainty and marred with challenges, live more fulfilling lives than most of us in cities do.

(Rohil Jethmalini interned with the Boat Clinics at Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Lakhimpur in June 2014)


Media on the Boat Clinics


Boat Clinics on Yahoo Original

Yahoo Original covered a photo essay  of the Boat Clinic at Jorhat by  photographer Arkadripta  Chakraborty  with journalist Ratnadip Choudhury, Principal Correspondent Tehelka .The link follows:


Fabrica on C-NES and the Boat Clinics

Fabrica, a communication research centre of the Benetton Group is a lab that invites young creative people from all over the world to come together to study and describe social change. Fabrica recently presented LokSabha where ten young Indian photographers described their country in the five weeks of the greatest election in the world, 814 million voters  renewing the Lower House of Parliament. Taking as its starting point the main themes and organization of the election, the LokSabha project gave the inside story, in ten different views, of the various aspects and contradictions of a changing India. As part of the initiative photojournalist Nikhil Roshan covered the Boat Clinic while on his coverage of Assam elections.  The link:

An excerpt from his report:

“….Government servants rarely venture out to these no man’s lands. Health services and family planning are practically unheard of while the racist rhetoric against them is that they breed like rabbits. In Dhubri, Assam’s southwestern-most district, I had the privilege of riding with a team of doctors of the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Delhi who run boat clinics on these islands. While pharmacists hand out medicine bottles against prescriptions prepared by two doctors, nurses inoculate newborns with vaccines for polio, smallpox and hepatitis, and a young volunteer lectures villagers on family planning and contraception.

“These are the people who god has forgotten,” MehboobHazarika told me as he stared out of our boat window, the S B Rustom, on a stormy night as faraway Dhubri town lay incurfewed darkness. Hazarika, a middle-aged manager of the boat clinic was in a particularly pensive mood as the violence in the BTAD had spread panic here as well. Dhubri stands out from the rest of Assam as majority Bengali speaking population, a huge number of them Muslim. The political leader that wins hearts here is BadruddinAjmal, a perfume barron who takes on the aura of a godman and protector among Dhubri’s poor and uneducated migrant Muslim populations. His call for the dissolution of the Bodo Territorial Council two years ago in the midst of an ethnic conflict between Bodos and Muslims caused a stir and raised fears of further violence.”


Screening at World Bank

C-NES’ documentary on the Boat Clinics, ‘Where there are no roads’ was  successfully screened at the World Bank premises in Hindustan Times House in New Delhi on 14th May 2014 to a packed crowd. At the start, Onno Ruhl, the India Office Director of the Bank, spoke of his visit to the Boat Clinic in Kamrup and how impressed he was at the smooth way the entire team worked.  Managing Trustee,  Sanjoy Hazarika made a few remarks expressing appreciation for all the hard work of the district units who are the core of the work and who function through the year in fair weather and foul.

The screening was followed by a set of intense questions including issues relating to acceptance of family planning, the difficulties of retaining staff (turnover), involvement of local communities etc. At one point, Mr. Ruhl made the point that he was impressed also by the energy and involvement of the ASHAs in Kamrup district. Responses from the Managing Trustee, which he interspersed with experiences of his own and of others on various units, satisfied them and drew greater interest.   In fact, a few of them wanted to discuss some of their new work in the NE with C-NES and how it could be done better.

The screening was also attended by Trustee member Preeti Gill; A.J. Philip and former Assistant Editor of the Indian Express, as well as friends from Ideosync. Apart from various places in Guwahati as well as in different district headquarters, the documentary has also been successfully screened in various places/ cities in India and across the world i.e. premiere show in India International Centre, New Delhi; JamiaMiliaIslamia, New Delhi; Nehru Centre in London; Vienna in Autria. The documentary has already received a remarkable award “the best movie on health” at the Woodpecker Film Festival in India Habitat Centre organized by CMSR Consultants Pvt. Ltd.


Screening at Pine City

‘Where there are no roads’ was also screened at the State Central Library Shillong on May 24, 2014 as part of the CALM festival, the second time in this picturesque Pine City.  The first screening was held a year ago for a small audience at the same venue. Managing Trustee SanjoyHazarika was present and interacted with the audience after the screening

CALM festival

Hazarika, was also on a panel with Chief Minister MukulSangma, Shillong Times editor and C-NES Trustee Patricia Mukhim and others to discuss Looking East towards Cultural Affinities at the CALM festival  the same day.


Story of Hope: Monalisa becomes a mother


Monalisa and her new born daughter
Monalisa and her new born daughter

“Sir, I’ll be killed by my family members if I fail to deliver a child this time”, Monalisa Barman cried out before Medical Officer Dr. B.C. Borah when the Dibrugarh boat clinic team attended a routine health camp at Mesakichapori. Dr. Borah tried to calm her down and asked Nurse Damayanti Das to attend to her.  Monalisa, who lives in Mialnpur village of Mesakisapori, had conceived thrice earlier but miscarried each time. After going through her records and talking with the patient, Dr. Borah could understand that the lady and her family members were not aware of the proper care to be taken during pregnancy. He informed the nurses, ASHA, AWW and DPO about the case and asked the nurses to properly educate her about the care she should take during pregnancy apart from the 3 routine ANCs, immunization, intake of prescribed medicines. The ASHA and CWs were asked to discuss the matter with the family members and follow-up the case regularly. The AWW was requested to facilitate all benefits she should get under ICDS. An awareness camp on  care during the pregnancy was specially organized for the community so that such cases do not occur .  The DPO Arup Saikia personally visited Monalisa’s house and met the family members and requested them to get her registered at the Assam Medical College for detailed investigations after her first ANC if needed. This integrated approach from the team members worked. Monalisa delivered a healthy girl child on February 2014 at Ramdhan PHC in Dhemaji district, which is the nearest institution for delivery.


World Bank Marketplace Award

Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee C-NES was a panelist on the session “Opportunities for scaling service delivery in the North East India”   at the Award Event for World Bank’s India Development Marketplace 2014 at Guwahati on 19 and 20th June 2014. It may be mentioned that C-NES won the India Development Marlet place award in the year 2004 for the concept of the Boat Clinic Akha “Ship of Hope in the Valley of Floods” The first boat clinic was funded by this grant of $20,000.

In the introductory session Natalia Agapitova, Programme Lead,Development Marketplace said that  it gives her great pleasure to be  in Guwahati and announce the awards which were developed jointly by the World Bank and IFC in India. “This is our flagship programme. So far 1012 organizations have been awarded. India is a great place for innovation and learning, projects here are being replicated elsewhere” she said. IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank was represented by Anil Sinha,,RegionalHead,South Asia Inclusive Business Model.The World Bank granted $ 1.4 million to 12 social enterprise sectors of Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram of North East India under the India Development Marketplace Programme which is a competitive grants programme, supported by the World bank and the IFC that is given for developing innovative solutions, especially for the poor and underprivileged.

Managing Trustee Sanjoy Hazarika speaking at the World Bank Award event
Managing Trustee Sanjoy Hazarika speaking at the World Bank Award event

In his opening comments World Bank India Country Director Onno Ruhl said, “It is really a great pleasure to be here. We have already disbursed around $640 million for the region and we are in the process of granting $500 million credit for the new projects. The World Bank is also engaged in Assam on technical assistance activities for sustainability in public service delivery, transport and governance.These events are very important for World Bank programmes in India .The challenge  of Govt programmes is to find a way  to make it meaningful and to make it reach people. The challenge for India is to achieve high growth but making it inclusive be it health care ,sanitation or education” Lauding the efforts of the Boat Clinics Mr Ruhl said,”How are we going to make health care reach islands in the Brahmaputra- people in Delhi or Washington would think.It is difficult where service needs to be delivered. Sanjoy(Hazarika) cared about those communities.  If you want practical solutions ask people who understand the people who need it. That is the beauty of social entrepreneurship.  Sanjoy’s venture has become much bigger than what we had expected”

Said Mr Hazarika, “In 2004, we had an idea. There were 2 people with me. And the small amount that we got was enough to build a small boat. What you do should match with the time you do. Today we have reached 13 lakh people in 13 districts. There have been some basic learning on the way. There needs to be a sense of integrity in your approach and a belief in a rights based approach. You must win the trust of the people- this is a very precious commodity. We are accountable to the partner who funds us, we need to be transparent to the people. We are filling a void which is being deeply felt. NE is a unique place and for the unique challenges unique responses are needed.”

(From left) Programme Manager Ashok Rao, Managing Trustee Sanjoy Hazarika, World Bank India Country Director Onno Ruhl, CEO Dr Dipankar Das and Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami at the award event 
(From left) Programme Manager Ashok Rao, Managing Trustee Sanjoy Hazarika, World Bank India Country Director Onno Ruhl, CEO Dr Dipankar Das and Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami at the award event


From The Field

CEO Dr Dipankar Das reports:

Visit to Barpeta: 21st May 2014

Had been on 21st May to Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College, Barpeta for the screening of C-NES documentary on the Boat Clinics” Where there are no roads”. Both DPOs of BarpetaAdbul Halim and Swapna Das along with their staffs coordinated with the college authorities. Of course Principal DrBhabaniChakraborty and DrAratiDeka, the Vice Principal were extremely helpful. The Main college Auditorium (600 capacity) looked empty for the 100 odd audience. ADC (health) on behalf of DC, JDHS, SDMO (HQ) and staffs of the District Health Authority, PG students ( UG students were having exams)attended the show. The hall had all the audio-visual inbuilt arrangements including catering which facilitated the screening.  Audience were impressed by the movie and DrChakraborty after the show said it has to be shown later to the students for inspiration. After the movie I gave a brief on C-NES followed by a Q and A session where queries on augmentation of the family planning service in the Char was clarified by DPO Barpeta II. The invitees were welcomed by Abdul Halim DPO Barpeta I whereas the Vote of Thanks was offered by Ms. Swapna Das, DPO Barpeta II.  Ended with refreshment after which Bhabani took me around the whole campus including the hospital, classroom block and hostels.

Visit of Managing Director, NRHM : 22nd May 2014

The visit to Chaygaon for the Managing Director, NRHM Dr Manish Thakur’s visit on 22nd along with Programme Manager Ashok Rao was beneficial. After receiving the MD in our Kamrup office proceeded to the ghat and on crossing the river walked for about 1.5 Km to the camp at Balapara at the LP school here (the regular camp venue for Balagaon) where activities of our team was already on since the team was sent earlier. He was felicitated by the DPO Hiranya Deka inside the Boat and was given a briefing about Kamrup Boat Clinic and its activities. People were gathered at the camp venue. The team was introduced by the DPO to the MD. He inspected the activities of the boat clinic on-site, interacted with the ASHA, AWW and took stock of the health issues of the villagers.He spoke to the Medical Officers, Pharmacist, Laboratory Technician and ANM about their  work and challenges. The school room was crowded with patients, mostly as usual with women and children. Dr Sarmah, SDMO and Sri Barlaskhar BPM, NRHM of Chaygaon BPHC were already there with our team. MD went through our records especially the new Master MCH register which has all details of both mother and child from ANC period till after birth with immunisation records. He also saw some prescriptions and mentioned that the Lab results should be handed over as soon as possible rather than waiting for the next visit. (Am devising a system soon) It was ascertained that the linkup between mother and child was only through the cards maintained with us but entry of all facts depends on the sincerity of the local ASHA. In the Balipara camp which we attended the records were not perfect as the previous ASHA did not function well for which a replacement was made but so far the new one was not trained. MD stressed on the record keeping and regularity of services as per action plan and to strictly stick to the approved dates Since the PIP will be drafted MD stated that we develop our deliverance for the service and I also agree that it should not be numbers but a minimum level of achievement ( maybe %age) as all districts are not alike and have different numbers and targets ( Camps, say 80%, vaccination say 90 %, ANC say 100%, PNC say 75%, GHC say a certain %age of vulnerable population of women of child bearing age and infants below 2 years from the village attending the camp from the total prepared in the  enumeration list by CW and DFPC: this has to be updated for the different camps ).


C-NES Annual Review Meet

“We are a few kms from the borders of Burma. We have to look at ourselves and how we look at C-NES the next 15 years.” These were the opening remarks of SanjoyHazarika,Managing Trustee C-NES  in his welcome address at the  three day C-NES Annual Review Meeting organized at the picturesque, serene Mount Tabor Retreat House, Kohima from 1st– 3rd June 2014. This beautiful capital of the North Eastern hill state of Nagaland which shares its borders with Myanmar, is the land of the Angami tribe. Kohima and other Naga settlements are built on the ridges of the high ranges here, which snake along the India-Burma border, standing like sentinels to keep an eye on foes and friends.

Over 40 C-NES staff comprising of senior Medical Officers, District Programme Officers from the 15 Boat Clinic Units along with the organization’s  Family planning , Community Radio teams and staff from the Regional Office, Guwahati attended  the meeting led by the Managing Trustee, SanjoyHazarika and the  CEO,  DrDipankar Das. Eminent Trustees of the organization including Dr VA PaiPanandiker, Chairman, Board of Trustees, DrJayantaMadhab, Economist, Mr GK Pillai, former Union Home Secretary, Patricia Mukhim, Editor Shillong Times, Preeti Gill, Consulting Editor, Zubaan and MrNiketuIralu, Peace Activist from Nagaland  along with Advisory Council Member Jayanta Bhattacharya, PTI Bureau Chief, Agartala  were  present.

Hazarika  said he was happy to be here in this beautiful state of Nagaland and thanked Trustee NiketuIralu for  all his support in holding the meet at Kohima. He said that “this was going to be more than a retreat but also a sharing of thoughts, experiences and ideas.  It is also a review of the work we do as an organization, as separate units and as individuals, of our growth and our failures, our successes and shortcomings, our personal and organizational/process challenges and the ways we can and are overcoming them. I am sure all of us will go back more energized and committed to the work we are doing; when we come together, we realize the synergy and power of people working unitedly for a common purpose’.

A group photograph at the Review Meet with Trustees
(From left )Trustees GK Pillai, former Union Home Secretary, Preeti Gill, Consulting Editor, Zubaan and MrNiketuIralu, Peace Activist from Nagaland, Patricia Mukhim, Editor Shillong Times, SanjoyHazarika,Managing Trustee, Dr VA PaiPanandiker, Chairman, Board of Trustees DrJayantaMadhab, Economist, Advisory Council Member Jayanta Bhattacharya, PTI Bureau Chief, Agartala and CEO, DrDipankar Das with C-NES staff .

The road to Kohima from Dimapur through hilly terrain, bumpy roads and rough patches was a little tedious, this being a first visit  for most which was however  more than made up upon reaching the serene Retreat Centre and  the smiling welcoming faces of  nuns who have dedicated their lives to the service of God and humanity. For three whole days they took care of the staff, meals were home cooked, wholesome and delicious complete with fresh fruits from the orchard. The stay at the Retreat Centre provided opportunities to the team for internal discussions between members, sharing and learning and living together from washing dishes to preparing presentations welcomed by green, cool  forests on lush hills,  washed by monsoon rains, and a constant hum of cicadas which at times threatened to drown out the speakers.


In between sessions quick trips and sightseeing visits were organized including a visit to the Kisama village near Kohima, well known for the Hornbill festival which attracts tourists from the world over during winters and a visit to the famous Kohima cemetery.

The final evening of music and songs was delightful: team members put up a wonderful presentation of song and dance, mostly impromptu. The Trustees and the CEO joined in too. The Angami song by NiketuIralu and his wife Christine, a trained singer and pianist was highly appreciated. Sangeeta Baruah’sBihu was a big hit with most members joining in. The programme was beautifully compared by State Advocacy and  Family Programme Coordinator, Chandana Bora and Programme Manager Ashok Rao was the main person behind the show. He played the key board nonstop displaying his musical talent and versatility. The evening ended with a beautifully rendered number” Till we meet again” by Trustee Patricia Mukhim.


Workshop on Community Radio


Associate Programme Manager, Mr. ManikBoruah attended a state level workshop on Community Radio representing C-NES’ Radio Brahmaputra organized by the Oneworld Foundation in association with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India at the Sterling Resort of Darjeeling, West Bengal from 27th February to 1st March 2013. Oneworld Foundation is a Delhi based leading community media organization in India, partnering with the MoIB, Govt. of India in organizing a series of state level consultations for promoting Community Radio as a medium for communication among civil society organizations (CSOs) and educational institutions in India.

Briefing about BCRS
Manik Boruah briefing about BCRS

The three-day interactive workshop was designed to create awareness about the community radio movement and also to motivate and prepare the participants coming from various organizations/institutions to apply for licenses. The entire discussions were focused on CR principles, licensing process, management, technology and capacity building aspects while establishing of a community radio.  About 40 participants from different organizations of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam attended the workshop.The workshop was organized for the organizations in the process of operating CRS, but facing difficulties while applying to the ministry since the application process is complicated and needs technical competency.

A view of the meeting
A view of the meeting

While talking about the Brahmaputra Community Radio Station (90.4 MHz) Manik Boruah  mentioned about the challenges especially delay in getting clearances from  departments of the Govt. of India associated with the CRS licensing process and also raising funds for future sustainability as the key supporting agency UNICEF is withdrawing support from June 2014. A brief description about the BCRS i.e. its coverage area, target population, demographic composition, production languages, programme production procedures, community involvement, content monitoring and management was also shared with the participants which was highly appreciated. The participants were taken to the Kurseong AIR to have an idea about the studio, programme production process and live programming.


Capacity Building Training for ASHAs

A two day Capacity Building Training for ASHAs was conducted on 9th and 10th June 2014 at District Nurses Training Centre, Tezpur as part of the PFI Family Planning programme. Fourteen ASHAs were given training supported by the district and block officials.BlockProgramme Manager Ms RuprekhaKhataniar delivered the introductory lecture on importance of vaccination, ANCs, PNCs and the incentives for different activities for ASHAs. Dr PranatiSaikia from Urban Public Health Centre, Tezpur and Ms Anu Das trainer of nurses delivered talks on ASHAs mobilization.  Talks on relevant topics were also given by Boat Clinic District Programme Officer Sonitpur Moushumi Dowerah,State Advocacy and  Family Programme Coordinator, Chandana Bora and FP Counsellor KabinaNath were present at the training.

On the second day, Joint Director Health DrSewali Devi along with DrPranatiSaikia came voluntarily and welcomed all ASHAs to the training program and requested them to learn the maximum and utilisethe same in the field. Two ASHAs were lauded for their excellent family planning  work and were given gifts and incentives. District Community Mobilizer (NRHM) Ms Mrinmoyee Bora also attended the programme and spoke on how ASHAs should mobilise the community and other health related topics. Dr BimanSarma, Addl. Chief Medical Health Officer (FP Dept.) present at the meeting appreciated the family planning initiatives of the Boat Clinic. DPO MoushumiDowerah that she got a positive feedback of the programme while visiting an island for a health camp immediately after. The ASHA who seemed very active in her work told her (DPO) “I am enjoying my work today after the training and doing it with full confidence”


image039Awareness at Bongaigaon 

The Boat Clinic Bongaigaon unit organized a village meeting and awareness programme with the District Police at Hokoduba on 23rd April-2014. The Superintendent of Police   N.C. Ghose along with Officer in Charge Pancharatna PS, I/C Majeralga out post were present. Over 200 community members attended the meeting and discussed relevant issues including health and education. There was a growing concern about incidents of violence in river islands /char areas which was raised by the community.


Events for children at Jorhat 

Along with conducting 18 camps (7 of which were for Japanese Encephalitis) in various river islands in the district in  March 2014, the Boat clinic Jorhat “Nahar” conducted Art competition and singing programmes  at Bhekeli 3 and Bhekeli 1.

Awareness for Barpeta School

In March 2014 a special awareness meeting was organized by the Boat Clinic Barpeta II unit for school students. Personal hygiene and the importance of extracurricular activities was emphasized. On 18th March the DPO Swapna Das visited the L.P school at Kalpani during a routine health camp at Dhuler Char. The camp was arranged on the river bank, the school is situated about half a km away.  A day before, the DPO discussed visiting the school with the local Asha’s husband Md. Karim Uddin Ahmed, a teacher. The Boat Clinic  Medical Officer, Community Worker and a boat crew member attended the school with the DPO. After classes, the teacher Karimuddin introduced the students to the heath unit. The DPO spoke on personal hygiene including giving a demonstration on hand washing. Medical officer Dr. NipanDeka gave small tips on disease prevention. To make  the health session more interactive, the DPO took a class on poem recitation, reading and writing. The initially shy students slowly opened up much to the delight of the health team. Says Swapna Das “This was a wonderful experience for me as conversation and good communication is the best learning methods. The same evening the teacher called me up to say that the students enjoyed the session and has requested us to visit the school again!”


Family Planning Initiatives

Barpeta Unit II

In March 2014 the Barpeta Unit II Boat Clinic Unit stressed on family planning counseling.  DPO Swapna Das organized visits to eligible couple’s homes. On 7th March an IUCD camp was arranged  at the Boat clinic where five women voluntarily had  IUCD inserted.The team had to walk about ½ hour to reach  Islampur char where the IUCD camp was planned. The community worker arranged the camp at Asha Noor Nehar home. The Asha had informed all beneficiaries to come her house. The DPO sent one ANM for health camp and the other performed IUCD insertion.11 more beneficiaries were inserted IUCD later in the month.


Dhubri I

After constant motivation and counselling sessions theDhubri I Boat clinic unitwas successful in motivating four beneficiaries to undergo LaparoscopicSterilization (LS)at theDhubri Civil Hospital from the char villages within its coverage area in  March 2014. All four were  in their child bearing years within ages 26 to 32. These areas dominated by communities where family planning has religious taboo associated  makes the work of the health team more challenging. Total population of the 18 coverage villages is 14100.  2 ASHAs were involved in thecamps.




C-NES -PFI Workshop on documentation and report writing

A two day workshop on documentation and report writing was organized by C-NES supported by PFI on 24th and 25th July 2014.Fourteen District Programme Officers from the Boat Clinic units and four Family Planning Counsellors from the districts attended the workshop. The Managing Trustee SanjoyHazarika and CEO DrDipankar Das were present along with staff from the regional office, Guwahati. The resource persons were Professor Sanjib Kakoty,Faculty,IIM, Shillong and  Principal Correspondent Tehelka, Ratnadip Choudhury.

Welcoming everyone, Mr Hazarika said that at the recently held C-NES review meeting at Kohima,,Nagaland, it was felt that communication skills  needed to be developed within the teams to showcase all the “ good work you do on the field”.

Prof Kakoty said he was happy to be with the C-NES team with whom he has been associated for a long time. He kept everyone engrossed with his anecdotes and his informal approach even while sharing and providing crucial tips on presentations. A sample presentation from one of the districts was shown for necessary correction based on which he made several observations.  He said that a power point presentation (PPP) was just an aid to a presentation and so there was need was to reduce the number of slides and elaborate on them.  The name of the presenter should come first. There should just be about 7- 8 lines on each slide. While making a presentation, the presenter must stand where he or she is visible to all. The need is to highlight the achievements and the challenges and how one has been innovative enough to cope with local challenges. Figures make sense when it is changed in terms of percentage and a pie chart makes it visually appealing, he said.There is need to compare figures with government data. The location of the area described is important and hence a map should be placed to indicate the same. When one is describing the river islands one needs to mention how many kms the health team has covered by boat and walked. He emphasized on the need to incorporate pictures, videos, insert clips. The font size should be easy to read and the need to make specific bulleted points was stressed. Maintaining regularity and following a sequence in reporting was important, he said.

Towards the end of the first day the participants were given an assignment. They were divided into four groups and asked to prepare a presentation based on what they had leant and a topic “how would you approach a funder” given. Speaking about modalities of presentation DrDipankar Das highlighted on the need to maintain eye contact and catch the attention of the audience, the need to time oneself, to keep the target audience in mind while making the presentation and the need to thank the audience for their patient hearing at the end of the presentation.

Day II

“You are a big change maker in society” said resource person senior journalist Ratnadip Choudhury on day two of the workshop. Talking about his experience with the Jorhat boat clinic where he spent 3 nights a few months ago he said that it was “a life changing experience for me, I was amazed at the dedication and endurance capacity of the team members. On behalf of the civil society, I would like to thank SanjoyHazarika and all of you for this wonderful initiative” Talking about reporting he said, “your reports can become a primary source of information for us journalists” He spoke about the need to break up a report into the following segments: date, time, location and the distance from the nearest town, travel time by boat,weather condition, the need to record it  since the Boat Clinics work in a hostile environment, district details including Public Health Centers,total population of the island,the number of people attending the camp and if these islands can be  mapped in terms of GPS location- Google earth and can then be put  on the website.

He said that while reporting one needs to follow the pyramid structure, the most striking point to be put at the top and less important ones at the bottom so that it can be edited if needed. Material from the field can be made into IEC material .and a proposal for the same can be given to NRHM. He asked the teams to record small incidents they come across while conducting camps at places where there are no basics. Once a month a photo feature can be done. He stressed on the importance of observation and  spoke about using Pod cast

The previous day’s exercise of making a PPP to a proposed funder was presented by the teams along with the corrections made. The presentations were found crisper and shorter . The teams were given assignments to write reports on the following:

  • Day in the life of a health camp
  • The C-NES Review Meet at Mount Tabor
  • Sharing a success story

Managing Trustee Hazarika spoke about the need for technical training, capacity building and the possibility of holding report writing, video, audio, photo and narrative reporting competitions at regular intervals. He highlighted the four “Ws and one “H” in basic journalism and reporting – “who” we are, “what” we do, “when” we do, “where” we do and how we do.

The participants expressed their satisfaction and gave a positive feedback on the training expressing the need for more such trainings to be held regularly.


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