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C-NES Newsletter (October-December 2014)

By the Brahmaputra (Vol: 28)
C-NES Newsletter
(For the Quarter October – December 2014)

By the Brahmaputra

BG Verghese: friend of the NE, thought leader and good human being

My first encounter with BG Verghese took place on a summer day in 1976 in Delhi. He had been sacked from the editorship of The Hindustan Times for challenging India’s takeover of Sikkim and his new office was not far away.

I was in awe of this already legendary figure who had worked as an editor and foreign correspondent and had been Indira Gandhi’s spokesman, the first for an Indian Prime Minister. Mr. Verghese walked in, apologising for keeping me waiting and saying that he had been delayed by a car malfunction and had had to fix the problem himself. And would I excuse him if he went and washed his hands as there was ‘a bit of oil and muck’ on them? Mobiles were still decades away, I was young and the Delhi reporter for Himmat, a small but gutsy paper in Bombay which opposed the emergency and was edited by Rajmohan Gandhi.

I was at once struck by his simplicity and candour, two qualities that he retained lifelong, and the way he put a much younger and inexperienced person at ease.

Truth to tell, George Verghese was a master craftsman of the written word, elegantly using a phrase here, sharpening his critique with a word there, robustly challenging ideas, policies and narratives with clarity and precision.

Over the years, he expanded his knowledge and capacity, moving from journalism (for which he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award) to critical issues of resource management that affected hydrology and water collaboration between South Asian nations, especially our small but difficult neighbours, Bangladesh and Nepal. He retained a robust interest in rural reporting, creating spaces for them in his own tenure at the Hindustan Times and later at the indian Express. In between, he started a rural newsletter , seeking to put rural voices in the media through AVARD (Association of Voluntary Rural Development), a Gandhian platform. It was a pioneering effort and later led to rural media growth.

He personally supervised the organisation of the annual Chameli Devi Award for women journalists, handing our fliers and announcements to reporters, friends, colleagues, associates. The award, which has been won by a few prominent women editors and journalists from the NER also, was funded by a grant from the late Gandhian economist LC Jain.

From the mid-1980s, he was based at the Centre for Policy Research (barring his time at the Express), where he spent nearly a quarter century as an active researcher and mobiliser on many issues relating to water and governance,. He and the team under Dr VA PaiPanandiker, the founder of CPR, created a network of institutions, senior scholars, scientists, hydrologists, engineers, environmentalists, politicians, officials and planners who developed friendships across boundaries. Those friendships became of critical importance in this first formal Track II process on water when two of the informal dialogue leaders, AinulNishat of Bangladesh and IK Gujral of India, assumed key negotiating official positions. Between the two teams and their brains trusts, which included Verghese and the CPR, they hammered out an agreement on Farakka. It was the first success for non-partisan, non-official dialogue between nations that set the stage for future back room discussions and negotiations.

These continue to stand us in good stead and we take inspiration from that pioneering work as, at JamiaMilliaIslamia and the University of Dhaka, we try to build understanding over environmental issues through dialogue with a much younger group of Bangladeshi and Indian professionals and scholars.

Major books emerged from his research and work on hydrology, spanning South Asia: ‘Harnessing the Waters of the Eastern Himalaya’ was one, another was the classic ‘Waters of Hope’. These were monumental works, vast in the breath of mental space and scale as well as the incredible detailed data that he poured into it, making such enjoyable and amazing reading. They were heavy tomes but worth every gram and more.

Then, as he travelled extensively for this project, he developed interest and extensive information about the North-east, which had always fascinated him, from his days as a spokesman for Mrs. Gandhi (he was also born in Burma, which could have been another factor that drew him to this difficult place, full of many sadnesses, beauties and joys).

A monumental product of his research was ‘The North East Resurgent’ — although I teased him at its publication saying ‘The North East Insurgent was more apt’. The amount of information, written in fine prose and measured tone, is truly vast. That would have been a lifetime’s work for any writer but he also wrote his biography First Draft, at the age of 85, which was released last year. If anything, George Verghese was a visionary who pursued the view that difficulties and crisis could be turning points for positive change and growth. This positive approach never left him and it is something that some of us have tried to learn from and apply in different areas.

His belief in dialogue has been substantiated with major insurgent groups in the NER sitting for negotiations, bowed by fatigue and a drop in public support. Mr. Verghese believed strongly that systems could change although dealing with the lack of information from the Water Resources Ministry (which treats northern river water volumes as classified information) and their stalling tactics would exasperate this normally unflappable man. He felt that without involving the stakeholder, no changes could be truly sustainable.

There two two major areas where he locked horns with detractors in the NER: one was on his support for large dams; we disagreed, at times publicly. Another was the idea of a Trusteeship for disputed territories between say Nagaland and Assam which could be the core of major industrial infrastructure and manufacturing. I kept saying that this could not happen unless local communities came together and worked to settle their differences and mutual suspicions. After all, land lies at the heart of most if not all NE internal and external disputations, with the Indian State, among the states of the region, between ethnic communities and religious groups as well as even the armed groups. Political parties are at loggerheads over the issue of larger homelands, spanning state and district boundaries. It is an issue that remains intractable.

As a human rights activist and advocate, who chaired the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and its key work on police reform and the Right to Information for a decade, Mr. Verghese tirelessly campaigned for the implementation of basic rights to life, liberty, food and access. He was on numerous groups that visited areas where riots had exploded and pinned responsibility on officials or political groups. He chaired the high level group that looked at the Kargil war and suggested tightening of measures to prevent Pakistani incursions like those of 1999 that blew up into India’s fourth war with Pakistan. As a member and leader of the Editors Guild of India tried to bring media to accept the need for balance and the public interest.

He would have been heart-broken to see the cycle of bloodshed and blame that is tearing Assam apart. His reaction would not just have been of moral outrage and condemnation but he would have pinned responsibility for local governance and its failure to assure simple security to the most vulnerable in the land. He also would have understood the problems of the state government, its hands tied with a pathetic force of 60,000 police personnel but would have seen how the failure of basic services to remote rural areas
such bad roads, health and communications can become deadly tools for armed non-state groups.

We shall miss his wisdom and counsel. In his departure, India has lost a visionary and a karma yogi, a man who walked the talk, a human being who was also that exceptional person: a good man

Managing Trustee

(From his regular column in the Assam Tribune published on January 7th 2015)

Visitors at BCRS: Liked what they saw

A 5 member team from Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA) visited C-NES’ Brahmaputra Community Radio Station(BCRS) located along the mighty Brahmaputra at Maijanghat, Dibrugarh on 28, 29th October 2014.
The station, the first ever of its kind in this part of the country to broadcast in 5 different languages/dialects- Assamese, Bhojpuri,Shadri(tea tribe dialect),Bodo and Mishing has been set up to reach out to the underprivileged communities inhabiting within a 15 km radius of the station including tea tribe communities with programmes of their interest and informative programmes under the proactive coordinator BhaskarBhuyan.All reporters have been picked up from these communities. The visiting team from Meghalaya studied the process of production, volunteership, application process, trainings, studio setup, technical and non-technical issues. A field visit to Maijan Tea Estate was also conducted. The station, its setup, process of production, volunteership, application process, trainings, studio setup, technical and non-technical issues were also discussed.The team returned happy and impressed with the work they saw and learnt. Their comments follow:


Bhaskar Bhuyan receiving the Manthan Award from Dr Poonam Muthreja, Executive Director, PFI
Bhaskar Bhuyan receiving the Manthan Award from Dr Poonam Muthreja, Executive Director, PFI

BCRS also won the Manthan Award South Asia and Asia Pacific 2014 under the Community Broadcasting category, according to an announcement by The Grand Jury.BCRS competed with 400 nominations (all nominations under different categories) for the award this year and the announcement was made in Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 4th December 2014.

According to the award citation, the award was given”For running a grassroots Community Radio Station” recognized by the Grand Jury as Winner for year 2014.

What is remarkable is that the entire team of BCRS, led by co-ordinator BhaskarBhuyan, did not have any previous training in journalism but developed as reporters through training after the idea of the station took shape. Today it broadcasts for eight hours every day on 90.4 FM from Dibrugarh and can be heard in three districts along and across the Brahmaputra.

The goal of the Manthan Awards is to “create an information rich society where everyone, irrespective of caste, religion, race, region, gender is empowered to create, receive, share and utilize information and knowledge through digital content for their economic, social, cultural and political upliftment and development”.

The awards are a first of its kind initiative to recognize the best use of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) and digital tools to create holistic and comprehensive impact on people. The Award is less about technology and digital media but more about the right use of the digital and technological tools. Since its launch on 10th October 2004 it has come to define the very best in e-Content and digital practices for development arena in entire Asia region. After four successful years of holding it within India, it was expanded to cover all of South Asia & Asia Pacific countries.


Media :


Where the boats ferry in good health

For the three million plus marginalised people living on the shifting riverine ‘chars’ on the Brahmaputra in Assam, ‘boat clinics’ arrive once every month with basic health supplies, services and education. RatnaBharaliTalukdar reports on this innovative healthcare delivery system.

Nearly a month and a half since the monsoon flood created havoc in many areas of Kamrup district’s south bank have lapsed when, on 10 October, a ‘boat clinic’ is seen making its second trip during the period for a general health check-up of people living in Koltoli Char of the district, about 60 km off Guwahati. This char has a population of around 1200.

The Boa Clinic. Pic: Ratna Bharali Talukdar
The Boa Clinic. Pic: Ratna Bharali Talukdar

The boat clinic is just what its name suggests. Equipped with a vaccine kit, necessary medicines for basic health check, a laboratory kit to collect blood samples (whenever necessary), a small kitchen, life-saving jackets, a handful of umbrellas, and a bicycle, it completes a one and half hour-long journey from the Chaygaon point of the river Brahmaputra to reach the char. The team includes two doctors, three nurses, a pharmacist and a laboratory technician – all employed through the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), along with three crew members and two community workers.

Umbrellas are important, as the team has to walk a long way to reach the lone public assembly site in the char – the primary school. As the boat clinic reaches the char, the community workers get busy in carrying the medical kits on the bicycle to the school campus. The char people, mostly elderly persons, womenfolk and children have been waiting for the team, as community workers had informed them about the visit of the team earlier.

The Eid-ul-zuha festival has just ended, and the residents of Koltoli, still in festive mood, have already arrived at the camp in their new attires, purchased during the festival. The health-camp starts with an art competition among the school-children, a general health-awareness camp with hand-wash training and a lecture delivered by Dr. Balanuj Majumdar, District Medical Officer, on how to maintain health and hygiene using locally available resources.
As soon as the prize distribution ceremony for the competition is over, the school hall, a newly constructed tin-roof structure, immediately turns into a temporary hospital for the purpose.

“The boat clinic has been providing all basic health support and has become an essential service for us. It visits us regularly, once every month. Last month when the flood-water had submerged the char, they had to visit us on a country boat. They educated us on how to resist post-flood health-hazards such as outbreak of diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases,” says Nur Hussain Ali, a char dweller.

By 2.30 pm, around 90 patients have been examined. The ASHA worker of the char, who assists the team during the camp, also avers that the boat clinic is the only health delivery system available in the char. In case of emergencies or critical situations, char-dwellers have to go to the Garaimari block hospital, which takes a good 45 minutes to reach during high floods and almost double the time during low waters.

The boat clinics provide basic care. “Elderly persons come to us to get their blood pressure and diabetes levels checked. The service has been extremely successful in addressing general health issues including malnutrition among children, worms and minor wounds that often lead to septicaemia, cough and cold and others. Such early interventions have an impact on reducing health hazards to a larger extent,” says GunajitDeka, another doctor of the team.

The journey of the boat clinics

The boat clinic service – a unique idea of providing basic health care services to over three million people living in isolation in over 2,500 chars (islands, isles or islets) created by the mighty river Brahmaputra – is a brainchild of Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee of the Center for North-east Studies and Policy Research (C-NES), a not-for profit organization, who initiated it nearly nine years ago in 2005.

Chars and saporis are unique geographical formations of sandy landmass, of varied sizes and shapes, on the mighty river Brahmaputra that flows through a 760-kilometre east-west stretch from Sadiya in Upper Assam to lower Assam’s Dhubri on Assam-Bangladesh border. In the upper reaches these chars are inhabited by a large number of tribal people belonging to the Mising tribe and indigenous Assamese people, while in the lower reaches, these lands are primarily inhabited by Assam has 2,251 char villages. Most of the char lands are temporary in nature, often prone to severe flood and frequent erosion, as their formation depends on the shifting courses of the Brahmaputra. This implies impermanent, volatile existences for the people living in these areas. Char population comprises nearly 8 per cent of the total population in Assam, with a huge 67.88 per cent among them being ‘below poverty line’.

Geographically isolated, most of these people have to live without basic services including health and education infrastructure, road network, electricity etc. Boats are the only means of communication to and from the char. But despite all such barriers, the density of population in these areas is as high as 690 per square kilometre against the state average of 398, revealing gross negligence on reproductive health and family planning.

“My dream of transforming the lives of these rural people, who have been forced to live without basic healthcare service, saw the light of realisation when a model of AKHA, the boat clinic, won an award in the World Bank’s India Development Marketplace 2004 competition,” says Hazarika, a famed journalist, columnist, author and documentary maker.

“The award money was spent entirely on constructing the first boat clinic, 22 metres long and four meters wide, having an OPD, laboratory, cabins for medical staff, medicine chest, kitchen, toilets, crew quarters, and a general store. This was completed in 2005. That was the kick-start for a “Ship of Hope in a Valley of Flood,” headds.The initiative instantly received support from the district health department, and also aid from UNICEF.

While the project started with a single boat-clinic “Akha” (meaning hope in Assamese) to serve preliminary health needs of char dwellers in Dibrugarh district in upper Assam, it has since come a long way to address healthcare issues among the poor and needy in the chars, growing to include 15 such boat-clinics in 13 districts of the state. Each boat clinic has a team of two doctors, three nurses, one pharmacist, one laboratory technician, three crew members in addition to two community workers.

Through successful collaboration with the central government’s flagship National Rural Health Programme (NRHM) since 2007 (as a public-private- partnership), the initiative has played a crucial role in providing health services such as immunization and vaccination, ante-natal and post natal care for pregnant women, malaria intervention, Japanese Encephalitis intervention, apart from general health check-ups.

Of late, a mandatory health awareness programme prior to each health-camp has also been incorporated in the programme, which deals with subjects such as reproductive health, family planning, curative care, childcare, medical and sanitation awareness etc.

Members of the boat clinic explain the merits of hand-washing to char dwellers at a camp. Pic: Ratna Bharali Talukdar

“After incorporating the health awareness programme, we have seen an increased level of awareness regarding family planning and reproductive health in addition to a growing awareness on general health among the char-dwellers, which is very crucial. We visit the different chars over at least 22 days in a month and try to make at least one visit to each char every month,” says HiranyaDeka, District Programme Officer, C-NES in Kamrup district.
The mission has certainly seen a long journey, but the experience has neither been pleasant nor easy all the time. Ashok Rao, Programme manager of C-NES reveals that in June 2013, when one of these boats with the team-members went out for a week-long service in Upper Assam’s Guijan point of Tinsukia District, a flash-flood marooned them in a char in the interiors, where they were without any communication for five days.

The situation was horrific as two nurses in the team were pregnant. There was no trace of the boat in that high flood situation. It was only after five days that they were traced somehow and finally rescued by a helicopter with the help of the district administration. But the impact of boat clinics in these remote, economically marginalised regions makes these risks worthwhile.

(Ratna Bharali Talukdar is a freelance journalist based in Guwahati, Assam. She received the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Women Media Person and the RamnathGoenka Excellence in Journalism Award in 2005 and 2006 respectively.)



NRL MD visits boat clinic

8th Nov’14 is a memorable day for us as we Sonitpur B/C team had the opportunity to have Mr Padmanabhan MD, NRL and his wife on board SB Numoli. It was a special camp organised for them for which we had been waiting for last one month. Our main aim was to showcase the best of our activities and I think we did it.

It was a sunny day with a pleasant temperature. We were waiting in the boat for our guests-NRL MD Padmanabhan sir, his wife Ambika mam,C-NES Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami and her husband Ujjal Goswami.  They reached at 9.30 am and we welcomed them on board with gamosas (Assamese hand woven towels). They observed every corner of the boat and appreciated the cleanliness and able management. Boat journey started at 10.15 am. Breakfast was served.At 11 am carrying all necessary medical equipments, medicines, vaccines all started their journey to camp site and reached after walking for 45 mins approx. Our guests seemed to enjoy their walk. Villagers were waiting for us from 10 am.

It was a peaceful camp with 160 general health check up, 17 routine immunization out of 19, 5 post natal check up out of 7, 11 Ante natal check up out of 15 and lab tests had been done to all ANC cases. Before we left a group photograph was taken. After reaching the boat all had a tasty lunch. It was dusk when we started our return journey. Every one enjoyed the sunset with a cup of tea and sweets especially our guests. We reached the ghat at 5.45 pm and finally bid goodbye to our guests. Before they left the Padmanabhans gifted a wonderful gift to us- a Solar Light which is one of our most useful things. Our boat crew were so delighted to receive such a wonderful gift and now it is installed in the boat and not only they but others also enjoying its benefit.

On behalf of the team, I would like to express my heartiest gratitude to Padmanabhan sir and Ambika madam for such a wonderful gift, sweets they bought for us and for their visit to Numoli despite their tight schedule. I am very much happy to talk in Tamil with them after leaving Coimbatore in 2004. Finally would like to thank our Communications Officer, Bhaswati Baidew  and her husband Ujjal Goswami for arranging the trip and made us happy.
Mousumi Duwarah
DPO, Sonitpur

Message from Managing Director NRL:

On behalf of my wife Ambika , myself and my company I thank you for the effort you put in to showcase the wonderful job being done by your team and you to reach medicine, care and solace to the unheard and unseen people, living on the numerous islands created by the whim and fancy of our mighty Brahmaputra. Although the vessel Numali is sponsored by our company, I think many of our employees may not even be aware of the yeoman service being done by your organization along with us. Will endeavor to spread it around by the time the second clinic on boat is ready to set sail.

Personally it was an eye opener for me and then we realize how blessed we are. Thanks once again and keep up the good work. Convey our appreciation and thanks to your great and dedicated team for all the pleasant memories and the tasty Bfast  and lunch.

P Padmanabhan
Numaligarh Refinery

From The Field:

Villagers in a small fishing boat who came to attend the health camp at Changbandha West. Photo credit: Abdul Halim
Villagers in a small fishing boat who came to attend the health camp at Changbandha West.
Photo credit: Abdul Halim

Baby at Dhemaji:

The new born infant at Dhemaji’s Sengajan Guwala village
The new born infant at Dhemaji’s Sengajan Guwala village

A baby was successfully delivered by the Dhemaji Boat Clinic on 18th November 2014, the sixteenth successful, emergency delivery conducted on the boat clinics till date – Five in Dibrugarh, three in Dhemaji, two in Barpeta and six in Jorhat. 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 320, higher than Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, and a high Infant Mortality Rate.While the team was coming from Apsora village after completing a regular health camp, they were informed about the pregnant women, Neha Yadav undergoing labour in Sengajan Guwala under Jonai BPHC. The team led by DPO Tapan Borah went to her house and after half an hour, a healthy female baby was delivered under the supervision of Dr. Vivek Kumar Sahu, Medical Officer,Dhemaji Boat Clinic. The delighted parents, Neha and Bulu Yadav  named the baby Chandrawoti. After delivery, both the mother andbaby were healthy. IFA tablets were given to mother for 3 months. The baby was vaccinated by BCG and OPV-0.


Problems of Access

During August 2014 lack of access was the main problem for the health teams with most roads and bridges cut off with floods, making it difficult to reach the ghat where the Boat Clinics are anchored. Communication between Barpeta-Mandia-Satrakonora- Manikpur river ghat was disrupted. For up to three-four days these places had no alternate route to communicate. People travelled by small boats.The Barpeta Unit II health team visited the flood affected char areas in spite of the inaccessibility. From Barpeta to Nelir Pam near Jail road the team travelled by a hired vehicle and then used a small boat to reach Mandia Block PHC. After walking for one k.m the team had to use a small boat again. All house-holds were submerged.Living condition was pathetic.Sources of drinking water and toilets were all under water. The boat had to travel with caution surrounded as it were by high water. After an hour and a half journey the team reached Satra-konora where the Boat clinic was anchored. Performance and efficient health service delivery was hampered.


Goalpara Awareness Camp


On 18th August 2014 the Goalpara Boat Clinic Unit held  an awareness camp in Bamuniralga III on ‘Family Planning measures & Routine Immunization’ where the whole team actively participated. After the awareness session a general checkup and immunization/ ANC checkup was done where 14 children received routine immunization and 14 ANCs  were conducted.106 patients were attended by the MOs for general checkups. In the photograph  above, Dr. Arafat Abdullah explaining about the need of Routine Immunization in the Mega Awareness camp of Bamuniralga III. Also seen sitting extreme right is the DPO Begum Zareefa


An awareness camp was organized on 9th August 2014 along with an art competition among school children at Kamrup district’s Nayapara island village by the district Boat Clinic team. The people were informed ahead about the event through the ASHA and Community Worker. The Boat Clinic team provided the required materials – Art Paper, Wax Color pencil etc. to the students. 35 students from Nayapara L.P. School and Nayapara Madrassa School participated in the competition on the topics- Nature and Village life. The Boat Clinic team and school teacher who moderated the competition selected the three best pictures while encouraging the rest of the participants  as well. After the competition  an awareness meeting was started in the School premises presided over by Md. Abdur Rahman, Head Teacher of Nayapara L.P. School. DPO HiranyaDeka spoke about the objectives of meeting and about C-NES and the work the organization does. The main topic of the  meeting was to generate awareness among people about the diarrhea and JE and how to prevent the diseases. Dr. Pranjal Goswami addressed the issues in details- what causes of diarrhea, how it spreads and how to prevent the diseases. GNM Arzuwara Begam spoke about the effectiveness of hand washing and demonstrated the five process of hand washing followed by two students, who were asked to do the same.


Tara Bhanu: A case study

Tara Bhanu from Uzan Duramari village registered in the Kamrup Boat Clinic for ante natal check up on 24th February 2014. She visited the health camps regularly since. This was her first pregnancy so the Medical Officer asked her to be careful. On 11th August 2014, the team was informed that the baby born after a long and difficult labour, died just few minutes after delivery. According to the Boat Clinic Medical Officers the unfortunate happening was only because of delay in decision making, of taking her for an institutional delivery by her family. As reported by ASHA she had tried to convince the family that they should send the patient to hospital.But they were not keen. Such cases are not an exception. There are numerous women who die due to child birth complication.Ignorance is one of the main reasons for this. However after the Boat Clinic intervention such numbers have come down.Regular awareness sessions are held on the need for ANC, PNC and institutional delivery where the MO and GNM address the gathering.


At Jorhat, awareness camps were organized at 14 campsites where various topics touching everyday lives of the islanders were discussed like flood, family planning,breast-feeding, J.E, importance of ANC and immunization, safe drinking water and dengue.At the session at Kath sapori, while ANM Juli Phukan was speaking about family planning a villager asked, ‘’Lora kenekoi ami jonmo dibo paruxikai dibi baidew’ (Kindly teach us how a male child is born). While it provided all present at the camp a good reason to burst out laughing, the level of ignorance among the people becomes stark and clear as also the still prevalent preference for a male child. C-NES health teams have been trying to remove superstition and ignorance in the communities they work with. In this case the ANM tried to explain the biological process of child bearing.In September 2014 the Jorhat District Health Society requested the Boat Clinic unit to conduct emergency flood relief camps at Dokut Kumolia and Missamora sapori and camps were accordingly arranged.  On 12th September the DPO Riturekha Baruah was invited to take part in District Review meeting and present the Boat Clinic report for the months August September.Sheshared her concern on the issue of erosion at Kankurmukh and Sengelisuti. She also requested supply of mosquito net for the people of Salmora Besamora.

There were awareness camps in 18 campsites where topics like safe drinking water,Vitamin A, ORS and family planning were discussed.

Barpeta I

Awareness on Hand Washing

Hand-washing session along with the school teacher at the school on Global Hand-washing Day.
Hand-washing session along with the school teacher at the school on Global Hand-washing Day.

Boat Clinic BarpetaI, conducted an awareness session on hand washing in Barghul char under Nagoan PHC on 15th October 2014.At around 11.00 hrs, the team reached the char and set the health camp near the village school. School teacher NitulSaikia spoke about the importance of hand-washing to all the children present. Towards the end, team organized a small quiz session for the students on basic health activities and distributed prizes.Later the team organized a practical session on hand-washing where the teacher and students participated with full enthusiasm. The session was led by the community workers. The session ended with distributions of sweets to all the children.


Family Planning session:

Later at 1.00 pm, the team organized an awareness session on family planning at the camp. The team started with the description of a small and healthy family. The ANMs spoke on the various methods of family planning and described the temporary methods available with the team. There were many myths and superstitions among the women regarding the temporary methods which were clarified by the team. Then then spoke about IUCD including post adoption care. During the session, many women asked questions to the team regarding follow-ups which was assured by the team. A beneficiary who had already adopted IUCD came forward and assured the rest of the women on the benefits of IUCD. She added that IUCD has helped her improve her health After the awareness session, two women wanted to adopt IUCD and therefore were brought to the boat. The ANMs after examination found out that one woman is already pregnant while the other had some infection in her cervix. Therefore, both the cases were postponed. But the team hoped that in the coming month a few of the women might adopt IUCD as a temporary method.

From August 2014, Boat Clinic Barpeta Ihas started conducting IUCDs at the boat. 3 women from different chars under Andabhanga Sub-center adopted IUCD as part of the family planning initiatives of the team which was conducted by the ANMs of the boat and an ANM from the sub-center who accompanied the team. It needs mention that all the women who have adopted the method have 3 or less children.


Barpeta II

Dr. Kailash Deka, tate Programme Manager, National Health Mission, Jintumoni Nath , District Programme Manager (HQ), NHM and DCM of Barpeta NHM, BPM, Mandia visited the char areas covered by Boat Clinic, Unit II, Barpeta and took an update on the Maternal Mortality Rate(MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate(IMR) status in which Assam figures at the bottom of the list. On 23rd Dec 2014, they travelled with the Boat clinic team from Barpeta to GaralaSuti Char and attended a meeting at GaralaSuti arranged by the Boat clinic team with the community wherethe SPM spoke about how in spite of Assam having such high MMR and IMR in this village there were no MMRand IMR yet as informed by the villagers adding that this was the was positive work of Boat clinic activity showing.They noted that these were well planned camps and successful awareness sessions.They lauded the hard working health and well-mannered staff. As per the demands of the community the SPM noted down the request for a Speed Boat which will be very helpful for pregnant women during emergency to reach nearest health institution .


To make people aware about government health and other developmental programmes an awareness camp on Health, Family planning,Child and Maternal Health care was conducted at Kabu Sapori Swahid Indira Gandhi L.P School, 3no Kabu Sapori Ward by the Boat Clinic Unit Dhemaji in association with Jonai BPHC on 29th November 2014. District Health Society and National Health Mission, Dhemaji district supported the health team by providing the resource person and IEC materials.The resource person were Deva Kakati, District Community Mobilizer, NHM, Dhemaji district and Dr. K. K. Kaman, SDM&HO , Jonai BPHC. The formerGanburha (village head) of Kabusapori, presided over the meeting where over200 people were present. Tapan Borah, DPO, Dhemaji explained the objectives of the camp. Kabusaporihas a mixed community profile with both indigenous ethnic tribe and migrated population.
Talking about family planning Dr. K.K. Kaman explained how family planning can improvewomens health along with improving the socio economic scenario in a society. He explained different methods of family planning which are easily available in a government hospital. Deva Kakati, DCM, NHM, explained the importance of ante natal check up and institutional delivery. He said that institutional delivery can reduce maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate.

Md. ManuwarHussain, Youth leader of Kabusapori, expressed his gratitude for organizing the awareness camp in Kabusapoari, the firstever here.Appreciating such an awareness session, Adunath Sarma, village leader, requested the team to organize such camps more frequently.An open discussion session was conducted and the villagers shared their views.

A school health program (RBSK) was also conducted at the camp where 250 school children were treated under Rashtriya Bal Swathya Karyakarm (RBSK). Village head, religious leaders, teachers and other such prominent members of the community were present in the Awareness Camp.


image033 image034

Heavy Floods in August 2014 hampered health camps in most districts. Photographs show Morigaon’s Nabu Char where floods prevented beneficiaries from attending camps.


Dhubri II


Boat Clinic Unit II, Dhubri conducted 19 camps in spite of severe floods in August, sometimes going from door to door to give medicine because peoples were not able to come to the boat,as they home were water logged. People also came wading through high water to visit the Boat Clinic for medicines and check ups. The team also conducted an awareness session on the boat deck on family planning. The DPO Sultan Nekib and Family Planning Counselor informed the villagers about the temporary and permanent methods of Family Planning and the options and benefits of choosing an option.

Dibrugrah: Awareness at Mesaki village

The team reached Mesakisapori at 2 PM after travelling for five and a half hours from Maijanghat. The weather was not good during the morning, it was difficult to follow the river track so it took over half an hour more to reach destination. The campsite was arranged on the river bank, two tents were pitched to facilitate the awareness session on diarrhea prevention and to observe the World Breast Feeding Week. Posters, banners were collected from the district media expert NRHM and as many of the people in this locality know only Hindi some of the thematic posters were prepared by the team in Hindi.184 people were reached through this session, where the community workers played the key role in communicating with the people, some of the very crucial questions were handled by the Medical Officers.A special session was arranged for the children, where the AWW helped the team. Though it was planned to show a documentary film to the children there were technical problems so it could not be shown. The team attended the camp till 6 PM. The ASHAs and ICDS workers attended the camp and help the team.


The district Boat Clinic unit conducted a sensitization meeting and orientation programmefor ASHAs, AWWs, CBOs and other stakeholders on Family Planning supported by Population Foundation of India (PFI) unit on 10th of September 2014 at Kochudola Community hall. More than 50 participants, mostly ASHAs and AWWs attended the programme along with community representatives from different char areas.In November 2014 the Bongaigaonunit in collaboration with NHM and District Health Society conducted a sensitization meeting on the occasion of the World Vasectomy Week at Chatpara L.P School near Jogigopaghat. The stakeholders present were ASHAs, AWWs, religious leaders, teachers, Panchayat members and villagers. Over 200 participants were present from the char areas.The objective of the programme was to sensitize the local stakeholders and communities on vasectomy and extending access to family planning services to the local communities. .District family planning coordinator, and media expert were also present.


Workshop on Media and Public Health

C-NES Programme Manager Ashok Rao and Community Radio Station Coordinator BhaskarBhuyan participated at a consultation workshop on “Media and Public Health with special focus on RI” in Guwahati on October 21. The workshop was organized by UNICEF, George Institute for Global Health and Oxford University. India has one of the largest immunization programs in the world, in terms of number of beneficiaries, geographical coverage and quantities of vaccine used, with nearly 27 million new born babies targeted for immunization each year. Over 9 million immunization sessions are held annually across the country. Yet, about 1.4 million children below the age of five years die every year from largely preventable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, malnutrition and new born complication like sepsis. India is among the top four countries that account for half of the global under-five child mortality. To address the issue, Government of India and UNICEF have launched a program on catalytic Health System Strengthening (HSS) for RI to increase immunization coverage and reduce child mortality across the country.

Success in achieving the goals on immunization coverage requires not only continued government priority but also active involvement of all stakeholders including media. Media plays a critical role in creating a sustained and informed discourse on any public health initiative. The idea is to address the skill gap in terms of reporting on public health issues based on similar such experiments in other countries and use that as the pivot around which RI media coverage can be stepped up. As a first step, consultation workshops with media, media educators and public health professionals are being organized across the country to understand the situation from different perspectives. The consultation sought to seek feedback to the proposed critical skills appraisal program and how it can be customized for journalists in India. Focused group discussions were also held at the workshop with media academics, participating journalists and public health professionals on “media and public health’’ and the proposed Oxford University certified programme. Participants were divided into three groups – media, media educators and public health professionals and a mixed group on RI.


Seminar on Social Entrepreneurship

Bhaswati Goswami, Communications Officer and Ashok Rao, Programme Manager attended a seminar on Social Entrepreneurship at IIT Gauhati on 30th October 2014 where Bhaswati Goswami shared the Boat Clinic initiative of C-NES. In order to further promote the cause and usefulness of social entrepreneurship in India, IIM Kolkata has been organizing a series of one day seminars named “Think Social”. The primary objective of this exercise being to build awareness, interest and desire to engage with the Social Enterprise Ecosystem amongst the graduate and post-graduate students who are about to embark on their careers.It may be mentioned that IIM Calcutta has set up an Innovation Park to incubate startups with special focus on Social Enterprises. The Boat Clinic initiative was shared in the session “Translating the vision – Sharing by a Social Entrepreneur” and was followed by an half an hour of Question and Answer.

Mr. Neichete Duolu, who is building a new generation of socially responsible business entrepreneurs through his organization “Entrepreneurs Associates” in Nagaland spoke on Social Entrepreneurship – A Practitioner’s View. The Keynote speech on Macro View on Social Entrepreneurship was delivered by Hasina Kharbhih, founder of Impulse Social Enterprises and Impulse NGO Network which works to prevent unsafe migration and human trafficking by providing communities in Northeast India a livelihood in their own neighbourhoods. Mr. Anshu Gupta, Founder of Goonj, an organization creating a mass movement for recycling and reuse of tones of waste material by channelising it  from the cities to the villages, as a resource for rural development shared his views on creating a Social Entrepreneurship Eco-System.Prof. S.R.M. Prasanna, Dept. of EEE, IIT Guwahati spoke aboutthe Local  Academia – Social Entrepreneurship Interface.The valedictory speech was offered by Dr. Utpal Bora,  Associate Professor, Det. of Biotechnology, IIT Guwahati.

PFI Partners Meet

Population Foundation of India (PFI) organized it’s partners meet on 17th and 18th September 2014 in New Delhi where Prof. SanjoyHazarika , C-NES’ Managing Trustee, Dr. Dipankar Das, CEO and Chandana Bora, State Advocacy and Family Planning Coordinator were present.PFI chairman, industrialist and philanthropist Dr. Vinay Bharat Ram, made the opening remarks and welcomed the delegates coming from different states. There were seven partner groups present-KarunaTrust. Sutra, C-NES, Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur ( IDSJ), Jagori Rural Charitable Trust (JRCT), Save a Mother ( SAM), Foundation.Socio-Legal Information Centre and Karuna Trust which runs PHCs in Karnataka and Arunachal Pradesh through PPP mode and also works in Manipur.

One of the best presentations was on the making of Doordarshan serial “Main KuchbhiKarsaktiHoon” sponsored by PFI on issues of the girl child, child marriage and respecting women and adolescent girls in a sensitive and informative manner which was commercially viable too. Prof. Hazarika requsted Dr Poonam Muttreja, the head of PFI, to make it possible for the director of the serial, Feroz Khan, to visit the boat clinics and see how to expand the ideas.Theprogramme reaches 5 million people regularly. He said that he personally believed that this is an opportunity to “expand such ideas extensively and deeply into many societies and communities which are still cocooned in conservatism and superstitions, leading to domestic violence and discrimination and disrespect to women and girl children.”

Prof Hazarika also invited all partner groups and PFI, especially Dr. Muttreja and Dr. Vinay Bharat Ram and other members of their Board to visit the boat clinics and possibly have a board meeting/partners’ meet there in 2015.
The presentation on the C-NES’ project, with a focus on family counselling and advocacy, which is supported by PFI, was made by SanjoyHazarika. Dr. Dipankar Das and Chandana Bora, CEO for C-NES, and State Advocacy and FP Coordinator for the PFI program also added their views on the same.An excerpt of the C-NES film supported by PFI ,“Where there are no roads” was showed to a rapt audience. Chandana Bora requested all and PFI about the need of some special programmes to promote NSV in the country and make men aware about the initiatives to make women healthyin the family. All partners were given a copy of the film and Hazarika requested PFI to make more copies and distribute as there is no copyright issue.


A Field visit:

Camp on IUCD adoption at Barpeta district

On 25th of Navember 2014, the Barpetateam reached the ghat at about 11.30 am after traveling by four wheeler and a countryboat reached the ghat. From the ghat theyhired two horse-carts where all necessary items for the camp was loaded and travelled for an hour to reach the exact camp site. The camp venue was the Anganwadi center of Aduri East. The camp started with an awareness session on family planning by the DPO, an ANM and later by the SA&FPC where around 50 villagers attended. The focus of the discussions was IUCD and Personal Hygiene. As the awareness sessions were going on, the rest of the team prepared the AWW center for insertions of IUCD. The team worked tirelessly till 5 o’ clock in the evening and helped 11 women adopt the services. At the camp the expected number of women for adoption were 25, but 8 women did not show up; 6 were diagnosed by the ANMs and the MO of the boat clinic with either Leucorrhea or Cervical Infections. As a result, a total number of 11 women were successfully inserted IUCD as part of the family planning method. Interestingly one woman from among the 11 beneficiaries, DorodiKhatun from West Bhelengimari, after listening to the team talk and listening to the awareness session became motivated enough to request those present to adopt IUCD along with the others.

Photo credit: Abdul Halim

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