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By the Brahmaputra (January–March 2016)

By the Brahmaputra (Vol: 33) C-NES Newsletter

(For the Quarter January – March 2016)

Editorial By the Brahmaputra  

And now for Jivika, Swasthya, Xikhya

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi watched, Sarbananda Sonowal took the oath of office as Chief Minister of Assam with his cabinet colleagues before an enthusiastic crowd which braved sweltering temperatures to witness the new government’s public inauguration at Guwahati.  The last time such tumultuous scenes were seen was 31 years back when the Asom Gana Parishad and its allies had captured power, tossing the Congress out of office.A shimmering band of political leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, including chief ministers, central cabinet ministers and party bosses, were at hand as were leaders of other parties. The political change in Assam is both a remarkable achievement for the BJP and its young leadership in the state as well as a huge opportunity for the change that Sonowal, Sarma, Modi and others have been speaking about. Today, there is, as was in 1985, an electric excitement in the air, a palpable sense that good things are to come, of changes that are expected, promised and to be delivered.  Sarbananda, whom I first met when he was a youthful president of AASU, conducted himself with humility and grace on the eve of the swearing in. Among other things, he called on Tarun Gogoi, leader of the routed Congress Party, and presented him a gamosa.  That was a good beginning. However, it is now that the real task of government and governance begins: of getting down to the basics and tackling the huge challenges and imbalances in the state. These essentially revolve around the trinity of creating jivika (livelihoods), swasthya (health) and xikhya(education).  In addition to the three words that captured the public imagination – Jati, maati, bheti – I believe it is critical that to generate a determined and compelling focus on these three other sectors that have the capacity of improving overall economic and social conditions in the state.This is a young government with some members with much experience in government such as Sarma, who is recognized as both a master tactician and a tough administrator, and a number of rookies. The tasks are formidable: in the field of employment, a Central Government survey said that Assam with about 15% unemployed youthin rural areas had the second worst ratio after Kerala. In urban areas, Jammu and Kashmir had the highest proportion of unemployed young persons at 18.7%, followed by Assam and Kerala. Assam, like other North-eastern states, has seen a significant out-migration of unemployed young people, both men and women, especially from rural areas to other parts of the country, to Delhi but also to other states such as Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and even Goa. This is where the Central Government’s upskilling programmes and projects can play a major role in reducing this outflow and creating both capacity and jobs at home. In the field of health, Assam has a shameful record of having the worst Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) and Infant Mortality Ratio (IMR) in the country.  The MMR has improved hugely from the figure of 490 of 2003-04; this has been largely under the able stewardship of Himanta Sarma, who was an energetic Health Minister in the previous government. Yet, Assam’s current MMR is still poor, actually double that of Bangladesh, a nation that we often like to deride. As far as education is concerned, the state government’s own figures show an overall literacy rate of 64.28%. While male literacy rate is at 71.93%, the female literacy rate however is only at 56.03%. Officially, the department says this is “a cause for concern for the State Government”. These are truly testing challenges.  In addition, there is the crucial issue that the BJP highlighted in its blitzkrieg campaign, that of Bangladeshi migration – the party prefers to call it infiltration. How will the new government handle this problem? A lot of its credibility depends on it.  The BJP Vision Document, notwithstanding whatever has been said in the heat and dust of the elections, does not talk about deportation. It speaks of closing the border – though this is a task that no country in the world, whether the United States or the countries of Europe, has succeeding in doing.  ‘Sealing the border’ has been talked about for decades and barbed wire fences have come up along many parts of the border.  Those who also speak strongly about illegal immigration into Assam are surely aware that our state’s border with Bangladesh is a bare 283 km out of a total of 4,096; the longest is with West Bengal followed by Meghalaya and Tripura.  Since migration is largely an economic phenomenon, it should be noted that Bangladesh’s economy also has improved in recent years. The vision document prioritized security and migration issues. It spoke of numerous things including implementing the Assam Accord, which the AGP has been talking about for 30 years,  “protecting the Xatras, and other religious, cultural and ecological land from infiltrators and tackling” encroachment of government land by people having doubtful citizenship will be evicted following due process of law”. In addition, it pledged to work “closely with central government to achieve complete sealing of the Indo-Bangladesh border in Assam”. The next months will see how these commitments will fructify. There is one thing that Sonowal and his cabinet will be deeply aware of: no party can ignore the large Muslim minority in Assam, be its members be of Assamese or of Bangla origin.  There is, among the latter especially, a deep concern about their future.  This cannot be ignored. This is the syncretic land of Sankaradeva, Azan Peer and many others, to which Sonowal himself referred, calling on all creeds and ethnicities to work together for the greater Assam. The publication of the National Registrar of Citizens expected in October will play a key role in addressing citizen’s concerns. Security officials say that they are concerned about reactions from those who find their names missing and no government is interested in creating a law and order problem for itself. Apart from these, the question remains of how conversations with insurgent groups such as ULFA (I) and the NDFB (S) will go forward. Obviously, there are issues of national security. The Prime Minister has followed a carefully calibrated approach of friendship to Bangladesh while politically handling the immigration issue. During his election campaign, he said that “the new BJP government will ensure that those who are here are sent out”, yet, he has provided generous doses of economic support and political largesse to Dhaka, linked to improved security cooperation. Bangladesh has also provided an Internet highway to India which will help connectivity in the North-east. The fact also remains that security conditions here especially have improved following a crackdown on North-eastern underground groups in Bangladesh.  As far as the BJP itself is concerned, the comprehensive Assam victory gives an impetus to its plans for Manipur and Meghalaya, having captured Arunachal Pradesh without an election and having a foothold in Nagaland. The Congress and its allies appear to be blundering along without a game plan to handle the BJP’s rise. In Assam, Congress needs to seriously consider a change in leadership; the defeat represents a rejection of its leaders and their policies. Sonowal will turn to Himanta Biswa Sarma, his most experienced minister, in the governance of this complex land; they have their task cut out for them, ironing out the wrinkles in the coalition. They also have our good wishes.   Sanjoy Hazarika Managing Trustee (From his regular column in the Assam Tribune published on 25th May 2016)

C-NES Annual Review Meet- 2016

image001 “Good to listen to what you are doing- your challenges, how you overcome them, what you want to do. We have to look at ourselves and how we look at C-NES the next 15 years.” These were the opening remarks of  Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee C-NES  in his welcome address at the  three day C-NES Annual Review Meeting organized at the picturesque, serene Teen Taley Resort, near the famous Rumtek Monastery on the outskirts of Gangtok from 20th- 23rd March 2016. This beautiful capital of the North Eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim which shares its borders with Nepal in the west, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in the north and east, and Bhutan in the east.Myanmar, is situated on the ridges of the Eastern Himalayas, which stands like sentinels to keep an eye on foes and friends. Over 30 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, Sanjoy Hazarika. Eminent Trustees of the organization including Dr VA Pai Panandiker, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Dr Jayanta Madhab, Economist and Preeti Gill, literary agent and former Consulting Editor of the Publishing House Zubaan were also present along with Advisory Council Members Dilip Chandan, Editor, Axom Bani and P.D.Rai, MP, Lok Sabha (Sikkim). (For more on the Review Meet:

Book Release

Hope Floats: Boat Clinics of the Brahmaputra

Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai releasing the book. (From left) Ashok Rao, Programme Manager, Dr C R Hira, Technical Consultant, PD RaiLok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai, Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami Chairman, C-NES Board of Trustees, Dr VA Pai Panandiker, Founder President of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Prof Sanjoy Hazarika and Preeti Gill, literary agent and former Consulting Editor of the Publishing House Zubaan.

Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai releasing the book. (From left) Ashok Rao, Programme Manager, Dr C R Hira, Technical Consultant, PD RaiLok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai, Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami Chairman, C-NES Board of Trustees Dr VA Pai Panandiker, Founder President of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Prof Sanjoy Hazarika and Preeti Gill, literary agent and former Consulting Editor of the Publishing House Zubaan.


“Hope Floats: Boat Clinics of the Brahmaputra”, the book on the innovative Boat Clinics run by the C-NES was released at the organization’s Annual Review meet at Gangtok recently by the Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai. The book co-authored by Prof Hazarika and C-NES Communications Officer Bhaswati  Goswami is supported by the National Foundation for India (NFI). The book is an accounting of the challenges and achievements of the Boat Clinic programme which started small in 2004-05.

Chairman, C-NES Board of Trustees, Dr VA Pai Panandiker, Founder President of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi and Preeti Gill, literary agent and former Consulting Editor of the Publishing House Zubaan were also present a long with MT Prof Hazarika. Speaking on the occasion Mr Rai said “C-NES is doing fabulous work with the Boat Clinics.  I would say it is the most comprehensive work in terms of experience. This book would go a long way in terms of letting us know how the untold miseries of people living in such a fragile eco system has been improved by making health and education accessible to them”. Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai releasing the book. (From left) Ashok Rao, Programme Manager , Dr C R Hira, Technical Consultant, PD Rai Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai, Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami Chairman, C-NES Board of Trustees, Dr VA Pai Panandiker, Founder President of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Prof Sanjoy Hazarika and Preeti Gill, literary agent and former Consulting Editor of the Publishing House Zubaan.

Visitors at C-NES

From Better World Education

The Better World Education team visiting the Barpeta Unit II Boat Clinic in February 2016 to build a story on the issue of health access Anitha Pai and Abhi Nangia from Better World Education, a classroom-led movement to spark conversations and connections about the most pressing global challenges visited the Barpeta Unit II Boat Clinic in February 2016 to build a story on the issue of health access. The visit was a part of the organization’s work on a series called“Empathy Challenges”. In essence, empathy challenges are videos and written stories exploring the biggest issues humans face, and the ways they can be addressed. The team collaborated closely with the persons being profiled to understand their challenges, joys, and the ways in which their lives are impact by access to health services. While they focus on a whole range of social change issues, the key was to getting really powerful stories that support students in learning what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes. Follows a first-hand account from the team:        

image003It’s about 7am and we’re greeted by Sapna Das, the District Program Officer (DPO) for the Barpeta Boat Clinic. Sapna smiles warmly and tells us we have time for chai before the vehicle arrives to take us to the boat. As she orders, we eagerly ask her questions about her life and work with the Boat Clinic. Abhi and I will spend the day with her and her team on the Brahmaputra river, where we’ll experience what it’s like to be a member of one of the 15 C­NES Boat Clinics.  We’re preparing to document their work and profile a member of the team through Better World Education’s Empathy Challenge series. Our trip is an introductory experience into the work being done to improve access to healthcare for people living on some of the most remote islands in Assam. 

The car arrives just as we finish the last sip of chai. We jump in, and over the course of the next hour the vehicle fills with nurses, crew members, a lab technician, and a doctor, all members of the Barpeta Boat Clinic. After traveling through the rural outskirts of the city we stop where the road ends and where the path ahead is a narrow strip of sand. The ten of us divide up into two autos for the final stretch with the day’s supplies ­­ food for breakfast and lunch, vaccines, and medicines for patients. It’s a bumpy journey until we reach the river bank. We arrive to find boats filled with herds of cows line­up along the water’s edge. As cows are pulled off the boat and led to the local market, we board a two ­story boat with room for a few cots, a kitchen, and a storage area. 

We chat with Michael, the boat doctor, who recently completed his medical degree and joined the boat clinic about a year and a half ago. He was initially placed with the boat clinic through a government program where trained doctors are required to complete a year of service in a rural area. Michael shares how he struggled in his first few months to appreciate and adjust to the demands of working on the Boat Clinic; however, since then he has become committed to his patients and recently extended his time with the team. 

After about an hour of travel on the boat, we dock and climb over a sand embankment. We navigate through fields of chili and peanut plants to reach the school in the village where we’ll set­up the medical camp for the day. In a matter of minutes the team sets ­up four stations: one for registration, another for vaccinations, a place for the doctor to do check­ups, and a make­shift pharmacy.  Women and children gather almost immediately and move from one station to the next depending on their needs. Some of them stop and ask Sapna about their prescription to confirm their dosage. Another woman needs an injection and two of the nurses go with her so that she can receive it in the comfort of her home. The medical camp is a collaborative effort. Village leaders support the registration process and ASHAs, or community health activists, help coordinate the flow of patients. 

While patients receive check­ups and treatment, a few curious kids watch as we take notes and photos. Sapna tells us that they’re speaking in a dialect closer to Bengali than Assamese. We communicate with smiles and gestures and soon make a game out of saying words in our respective languages.  As the camp comes to a close, we share a few Empathy Challenge videos for the group to learn about what we’re building with classrooms around the world. We’ve learned so much from being in that community and we want to share in return.  The camp ends after all of the patients have been seen. And as the sun sets, we find ourselves traveling back to Barpeta with a deep appreciation for our new friends ­­ the committed professionals who provide critical health services to the people of Assam.

Dr. Khafiluzzaman Ahmed, anesthetist from Denmark visits Boat Clinic

The visitors at the camp site. (From left) DPO, Kamrup Boat Clinic,Hiranya Deka,a beneficiary,Dr Prakash Barman,Medical Officer, Dr Shabina Ahmed, Dr. Khafiluzzaman Ahmed, Dr. C.R. Hira, Technical Consultant and Bhaswati Goswami, Communications Officer,C-NES
The Kamrup health team with the visitors on board Boat Clinic Kaliyani
The Kamrup health team with the visitors on board Boat Clinic Kaliyani

Dr. Khafiluzzaman Ahmed, an anesthetist based in Denmark and Dr Shabina Ahmed, Founder Director, Assam Autism Foundation, visited Boat Clinic, Kamrup on 2nd March 2016 to see the work of the Boat Clinic. They were accompanied Dr. C.R. Hira, Technical Consultant and Bhaswati Goswami, Communications Officer, C-NES.  The Boat Clinic team along with the guests reached the Toparpather L.P. School premises at 12.30 pm after a 20 minute boat journey and half an hour walk thereafter. Beneficiaries were eagerly awaiting the team. Dr. Shabina Ahmed, a pediatrician treated about 50 children in the camp helping the Boat Clinic Medical Officer,Dr Prakash Barman.The camp continued for nearly three hours. After finishing the camp the guests visited two houses of the locality to see the lifestyles of the villagers. A Buffalo-cart was hired for the return journey as the village was located at quite a distance from where the Boat Clinic was docked.

Visitors from Centre for New Perspective,New Delhi

image011 image012

Dr. Navina Jafa, Vice President of the Delhi based Centre for New Perspective (CNP) visited the Jorhat Boat Clinic on 25th March 2016. She was accompanied by Pierre de Bausset CEO of AIRBUS, India, Marilla De Baussef, Cancer Research Institute, Reid Deaver, US Embassy, Delhi, Birgit Lohr from the German Embassy, Delhi and Dr.J. Bright from UK Embassy, Bangladesh. The guests highly appreciated the Boat Clinic health initiative after observing how the camp was conducted in remote island villages CNP works as a knowledge convergence platform assisting in identifying problems usually related to traditional skilled communities, finding funding for organizations and assisting their efforts to grow. It has identified a possible funding for addressing reproductive and maternal health specifically of capacity building and infrastructural facilities related to traditional mid wives and healers for specific Boat Clinic operated areas. As part of this program the Centre proposes   to incorporate a documentation and ways to conserve traditional customs, food and rituals associated with Reproductive health in order to provide a holistic approach of addressing culturally contextualized skills of traditionally skilled communities. The centre aims at increasing the relevance of traditional skills which when modernized can be relevant to contemporary needs and acquire a dynamism of their own within the cultural context they function. A proposal for the funding of capacity building of the traditional birth attendants called dhais has accordingly been submitted by C-NES. A study on the role of Dhai and their contribution to their community will also be undertaken if the proposal is accepted.

Media coverage on Boat Clinics 

Held as a flagship innovative programme by the Government of Assam, the Central Government and UNICEF, the boat clinics along with other C-NES initiatives have been written about extensively in local, regional, national, and international media. The links to the media coverages during the quarter follows:

Radio Brahmaputra e award

The Radio Brahmaputra team led by Coordinator Bhaskar Bhuyan (foreground) with the eNorth-East Award
The Radio Brahmaputra team led by Coordinator Bhaskar Bhuyan (foreground) with the eNorth-East Award

C-NES’ Brahmaputra Community Radio Station, popularly known as Radio Brahmaputra,received the enortheast Award 2015. The 6theNorth East Award 2015 Summit was organized by NE Development Foundation, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Impulse NGO Network and Meghalaya Information Technology Enclave supported by the NEC in February 2016 at Shillong The award summit was inaugurated by NEC Secretary Ram Muivah.There were 10 winners in all for digital innovations in the region. Radio Brahmaputra is based at  Dibrugarh, very close to where the mighty river flows by at Maijanghat. The station is unique in the sense that it caters to the needs and aspirations of people belonging to as many as five communities residing around the area in as many local languages – Shadri (dialect of the tea tribe community), Assamese, Bhojpuri, Bodo, and Mishing. While BCRS seeks to reach the most marginalised groups in 14 islands and 30 tea plantations and more than 180 villages in Dibrugarh district, its footprint reaches across the Brahmaputra to other districts as well. Today it broadcasts for eight hours every day on FM 90.4 from Dibrugarh and can be heard in three districts along and across the Brahmaputra.

Training and Survey on Disability at Morigaon

Dr. Sunil Deepak, from Mobility India
Dr. Sunil Deepak from Mobility India at the training

A training program on disability survey was organized by C-NES on 19th Feb 2016 at the Morigaon GNM training center in collaboration with District Health Society, Morigaon supported by Mobility India (North East). The two day program had a day’s class room training followed by a field visit the next dayto conduct a survey on disability at the districts Pithakaity char village with a  populationof  2622 Dr. Sunil Deepak, Head Mobility India was the main resource person of the program. Dr. C.R. Hira, Technical Consultant  and Ashok Rao,Program Manager C-NES were present at the training along with .Joint Director of Health Services Morigaon Dr. Biplob Gohain, District Program Manager NHM Mr. DipenKalita, Block Program Manager (Lahorighat Block PHC) Rupali Narzary,Community Health Officers from Lahorighat, Special Educators from RMSA (Rastriya Madhymik Siskha Abhijan) and Block level resource persons from SSA (Sarva Shiksa Abhijan). The Morigaon boat clinic team was present in the program.

DPO Morigaon Shyamjit Pashi interacting with beneficiaries at the awareness session on disabilities at Pithakaity village.

Disability and related issues were discussed at the training with the help of survey reports conducted by various agencies including case definitions, national and local statistics, causes of mass differences among those statistics, measures to minimize the errors. Different survey modalities were discussed and among them the best and appropriate mode of survey (house to house survey) was emphasized. Classifications of disability and functional difficulties were also discussed.

team from Mobility India with the Morigaon Boat Clinic team
Team from Mobility India with the Morigaon Boat Clinic team

For conducting the survey the team visited Pithakaity char village on 20th Feb 2016 where about 150 inhabitants were gathered at the LP school premises.An awareness session was organized where the DPO ShyamjitPashi and MO talked on the various difficulties and the objectives of conducting the survey.  36 survey formats were filled by the Boat Clinic team members later were submitted to Dr. Sunil Deepak for assessment and further guidance in this regards.

Dental Service in Boat Clinic

Dr. Amrit Saikia, inaugurating the dental service in the Jorhat Boat Clinic
Dr. Amrit Saikia, inaugurating the dental service in the Jorhat Boat Clinic

For the first time dental services have been introduced in the Boat Clinic health initiatives at the Jorhat Boat Clinic unit from 11thMarch 2016. A full dental setup on a Boat for the island population right at their door step may be the first in India. The Jorhat Boat Clinic team started journey from Nimatighat for Salmora village in Majuli Island where arrangement for the introductory dental service camp was planned. Officials from the District Health Society Jorhat – Dr. Amrit Saikia, Additional C M & HO (FW), Ms.S.Saikia DPM  NHM, Ms. Farhanaz Hazarika DCo RBSK, Dr. Dhubrajyoti Saikia SDMO and Pradip Ranjan Hazarika BPM Kamlabari BPHC,  Sikha Baruah, Dental Surgeon BPHC Kamalabari (deputed by JDHS, Jorhat to Boat Clinic for the service)  Abhishek Sarkar, Regional HR Manager Mahindra Finance, Guwahati, Dr.C.R.Hira Tech. Consultant, C-NES, Ashok Rao Program Manager, C-NES along with Mr. Bipul Talukdar proprietor of M/s.NE Dental Depot, Guwahati (supplier of the dental equipment’s) who had come along with a team to install the dental equipment’s on the Boat, were part of the group traveling on the Boat Clinic to Salmoraghat.

Patient being attended to at the first dental health camp
Patient being attended to at the first dental health camp

A tent was pitched on the river bank and villagers in large numbers had gathered for the occasion. The program started by Nam Kirtan (prayer) which was performed by Titaram Chamuah a 85 year old village elder. It was fascinating to see the enthusiasm and the uniqueness of him playing the cymbal tied to his feet simultaneously beating the drum and singing. The Dental setup was done in the OPD room of the boat, where the inaugural ceremony was performed by the chief guest Dr. Amrit Saikia, cutting the ribbon and announcing start of the dental service in the Boat Clinic, Jorhat. Dr.M.Rahman, JDHS, Jorhat has officially deputed the  Dental Surgeon, Kamalabari BPHC to work with the Boat Clinic for one trip in a month which will cover 5 to 6 camp sites. After the announcement of dental service in the Boat Clinic Jorhat, Dental Surgeon Dr.Sikha Baruah took charge of the section and immediately started screening and treating patients of different age groups. There were a total of 23 patients examined/ treated out of which 3 school going children had their tooth extracted. The officials present spoke on the new initiative and thanked Mahindra Finance for extending the financial support to acquire the dental equipment’s while also thanking C-NES for the contribution and service of the Boat Clinic to the island population in the district. The village headman Dimbeswar Saikia and Gunindra Saikia a teacher expressed their gratitude for introducing the dental service.

C-NES Participation

World Autism Awareness day

The World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) event was held at the Vivekananda Kendra Auditorium, Guwahati, on 2nd April 2016, by the Assam Autism Foundation(AAF).  Every year for the past nine years, the organization ably led by Dr Shabina Ahmed,the Managing Trustee and Developmental Pediatrician, AAF has observed WAAD not only as a celebration but also to seek awareness on the universal rights of children with disabilities. The organization has tried to increase community awareness of various issues related to autism, taking a cue from the UN Secretary General’s first message on WAAD in 2008, wherein he stressed on the need to focus on building enabling environments for them to prosper. The event  focused on the environment and its impact on neuro-developmental problems.

 Patricia Mukhim, Editor, Shillong Times and Trustee C-NES was the Chief Guest at the function, while Vedprakash Gautam, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Assam, was the Guest of Honour.Simanta Kalita, Center for Environment Education, NE Cell, and Christoph Bresch, Special Educator, Comenius Schule, Berlin were the Invited Speakers. The theme of the event was : “The Environment and Autism : are we responsible ?

Technical Consultant Dr CH Hira and Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami attended the event on behalf of C-NES. The organization has already conducted a survey on disabilities among char sapori population at Morigaon district where there is a  boat clinic unit working as well. The results showed that the number of those with disabilities is far higher than thought or expected. C-NES hopes to conduct such surveys in each of the 13 districts that it serves in the Brahmaputra valley to get a better  sense of the scale of the problem among 32 lakh char sapori dwellers.The challenges of autism will be more specific and C-NES hopes to address these too through the Medical Officers and has requested Assam Autism Foundation led by Managing Trustee Dr Shabina Ahmed to conduct a workshop that would enable them to be better trained and responsive.


Interface on Budget for Children

Melvil Pereira, Director NESRC, Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, Bhaswati Goswami,C-NES and Binita Kakoti, Researcher, NESRC at the interface
Melvil Pereira, Director NESRC, Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, Bhaswati Goswami,C-NES and Binita Kakoti, Researcher, NESRC at the interface

C-NES Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami attended an interface on25 February 2016 jointly organized by North Eastern Social Research Centre, Guwahati and HAQ, Centre for Child Rights, New Delhi. The interface was organized to share the findings of the study on Budget for Children in Assam 2015-16which looks at the Assam State Budget from the point of view of children.

NESRC is a research organization that has been undertaking social research in states of the North East on a wide range of issues since 2000. Its mandate is to combine serious research with involvement with groups and organizations working for social transformation in North East India.

HAQ: Centre for Child Rights works on recognition and promotion of child rights. Over the last 15 years HAQ has been working on a range of children’s issues through research, documentation and training and capacity building on child rights issues. It has been undertaking budget for children since 2000.


Workshop on Sanitation and Waste Management

(From left )Dr Monica Banerjee, Director, Programmes,NFI, Sathyashree Goswami, NFI, Bhaswati Goswami ,C-NES, Prof. Joshomayee Devi, Executive Director FST, Guwahati
(From left )Dr Monica Banerjee, Director, Programmes,NFI, Sathyashree Goswami, NFI, Bhaswati Goswami ,C-NES, Prof. Joshomayee Devi, Executive Director FST, Guwahati

The National Foundation for India (NFI) in collaboration with sSTEP (Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection) organized a dissemination workshop to share the findings of a recently concluded pilot study, titled, “An Exploratory Study to Identify Water, Sanitation and Waste Management Issues in Guwahati City with a Specific Focus on Two Wards” on 20th February 2016 at Guwahati. The meeting was presided over by Dr Monica Banerjee,Director, Programmes,NFI and the guest speaker was Dr. Abhijit Sharma, Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Bank Management.Sumit Das, Councilorone of the two wards (Ward  15) was present.              

After 1977 Assam witnessed the presence of fluoride. Open drains covered with garbage is a common sight at Guwahati and elsewhere with the slightest of rainfall inundating the area. Only 30% of Guwahati residents get supply water. Most water plants are abandoned. Presently there is no organized sewerage system in Guwahati citywith a million population. Untreated or semi treated sewerage is discharged to the storm water drains, waste disposal is negligible. These were some of the issues of concern discussed along with corruption, paucity of funds, and the role of GMC. Monica spoke about NFIs successin such interventions inurbanand peri urban areas with with synergetic private and public partnerships.At the planery session, Bhaswati Goswami shared her idea about how to take the project forward, to combine the report with the Guwahati “Smart City” initiative, and the need to have an active social media page on sanitation and hygiene.

From the Field

Family Planning Initiatives

Family planning is often a big challenge for the health teams especially in districts with communities whose religion prohibits family planning. With proper counselling the health teams have been able to convince people about the benefits of family planning. The results are showing.

Barpeta Unit II

The Barpeta Boat Clinic Unit II was able to successfully motivate eight beneficiaries from the districts Aligaon N.C,,AligaonPathar and Ramaparagaon to undergo laparoscopic sterilization(LS)on 9th March 2016. Difficulties in accessing the islands, poor communication and long distances to hospitals where such facilities are available are some of the factors making such initiatives difficult. NHM, Govt of Assam arranged for conveyances to transport the beneficiaries to and fro under the initiative of DPO Swapna Das, local Asha and community worker AnowarHusain.The Boat Clinic team received good support  from the district health functionaries.


awareness camp on family planning by the Sonitpur Boat Clinic team
Sonitpur Boat Clinic team

After sustained motivation on family planning by the Sonitpur health team, fivebeneficiaries were convinced to adopt LS in  April 2016. An awareness camp was conducted in Rani Tapu char on family planning under PFI project on 30th March 2016 where related issues were discussed by the team. Two influential community leaders were felicitated by the team for their proactive support. DPO MousumiDuwarah asked the beneficiaries who had undergone LS to become role model for other villager and try to motivate them. ASHAs were asked to discuss the topic with potential villagers frequently so that they can understand the benefits of a small family.

The awareness camp on family planning by the Sonitpur Boat Clinic team(right)  the Sonitpur Boat Clinic  team on way to a health camp



The Bongaigaon Boat Clinic unit conducted a family planning sterilization camp at the Abhyapuri CHC on 25th February 2016 in collaboration with the district health society. The target group were eligible couples in the boat clinic coverage areas. The day long camp started at 9.00 am and continued till 5.30 pm.The ASHAs, and AWWs were given the responsibility of bringing the beneficiaries to the camp accompanied by the Boat Clinic community workers. There was good support from the District Health Society which collaborated with the team and helped with necessary equipment and logistic.  ASHA and beneficiaries came to camp by country boats and ambulance vehicles.  There were 18 beneficiaries.



A street play on family planning at Morigaon’s Hamur Char on 6th March 2016 as part of a regular health camp by the Morigaon Boat Clinic team at the village LP school



The Golapara Boat Clinic Unit organized a mega awareness camp on 25th February 2016 on family planning at two different island villages in collaboration with  NHM,Goalpara. A group from the NGO EARTH also performed street plays on the benefits of family planning

Awareness camp at Dhemaji’s Kabusapori

The district community mobiliser conducting the awareness camp in Kobusapori

image029An awareness session on family planning was held at Dhemaji’s Kobu Sapori under Jonai BPHC on 9th February 2016. Deva Kakati, Coordinator, Family Planning, Anjan Bezbaruah, Data Manager and Divyajyoti Saikia from NHM office Dhemaji attended the meeting. The medical officer of Boat clinic, Dhemaji Dr. Rahul Mistry explained the objective of the awareness camp, deliberated his lecture on family planning and explained the benefit of using contraceptives.

At the end of the meeting, a list of beneficiaries interested in inserting IUCD was made. ASHA and  AWW were also present in this awareness camp.

The Dhemaji team travelling to Kobu Sapori


Training by Dhubri Unit II

The Boat Clinic Unit-2 Dhubriunder the initiative of DPOs Mehebub Alom Hazarika and Sultan Nekoborganized a two day residential capacity building training on reproductive health and family planning under PFI for ASHAs, Anganwadi workers and ANMs of both boat clinic units. The training was organized at the conference hall of Joint Director’s of Health Services office, Dhubri on 19th and 20th February 2016


Angela Doley arrives: Boat baby

Nurse Junmoni and Indeswar Kumbang holding the new born baby
Nurse Junmoni and Indeswar Kumbang holding the new born baby

22nd Feb 2016:  Today we reached Koilawalisapori, at around 10:15am. Villager Indeswar Kumbang, husband of the local ASHA Priyanka Kumbang told us that a local Mising woman Sangita Doley was undergoingsevere labour pain. Accompanied by our ANM nurse  Junmoni Saikia and community worker Bhupen Taid we went to her house built on stilts (locally known as“changghars”)a typicalMising home,built to protect themselves from flood. We immediately attended to her and after about half an hour, she delivered a healthy female child with a birth weight of 2.5kg. The mother was very weak as this was her third delivery.We gave her medications. After about one hour of treatment, she was feeling little better and was breast feeding the baby. The villagers wanted me to name the baby. Since they were Christians, I named her “Angela”, because she was like an angel arriving into this world.

Dr Rahul Mistry, MO, Dhemaji Boat Clinic 


Tinsukia: Health team to the rescue

On the 26th of January 2016, we had our scheduled health camps at Bashbari and Madhupur villages respectively. After completing our camp at Bashbari village in the morning, our team reached Madhupur village to conduct the second health camp scheduled for that day.

On reaching the camp location, just as we were about to start our camp, we were called by some villagers telling us that a pregnant woman Anita Changmai of Madhupur was under severe  pain. The villagers further added that she had been having pain since the previous evening and it has only been increasing On reaching her home, we recognized her as one of our beneficiaries, at 25 weeks of gestation, having received her last ante natal check up in December 2015,duringwhich time all was normal as per the gestation age. She was receiving medications properly and routinely as other pregnant women. On examining the patient the doctors could feel that the fetal heart beat was missing. On further examination the doctors found the baby was still born and that the she had suffered an injury, which may have resulted in this. They took the needful medical measures to bring her out of danger. Our team stayed with her for the next hour and she gradually got relief, the pain subsided. Doctors gave her prophylactic antibiotics and other medicines to prevent any infections from occurring and iron, calcium and multivitamin tablets. Theyadvised her to consult a gynecologist for further guidance so as to prevent such a miscarriage in the future.

We left her but not before receiving lots of thanks from the villagers and went to attend our health camp. It was a miracle that we were there on that day, thatwe could attend to her and provide emergency medical services and prevent a certain disaster

Bhargab Baruah, DPO Tinsukia


Health and hygiene:  A report from the DPO, Dibrugarh

Aichungsapori,: 11th and 12th December 2015

The tent was pitched near the river bank with the people gathered around it. The camp session continued till 6 PM the first evening and again from 7.30 AM to 9.30 AM the next  morning. After the camp session the entire team split into three groups accompanied by ASHAs, AWW and few villagersand they visited  the village to have a look at the public health and hygiene status. The three teams visited 30 homes and took stock of their hygiene practice. They also visited 5 community water points (hand pumps). The teams together organized a group discussion with the people present and shared their observations:

  • There is water logging in and around the hand pump points and disposable of garbage (both bio-degradable and toxic garbage)
  • Rearing of cattle and birds very close to the homestead, even inside the living space
  • Uncovered food and drinking water
  • Poor ventilation and light in the houses
  • Improper hand washing during cooking and serving
  • Negligence ofmenstrural hygiene
  • Not enough privacy for women and girl children
  • Practice of open defecation.

Somepossible remedial suggestions for improving this situation by the boat clinic team were-

  • Community initiative for construction of drainage and maintenance of the same
  • Construction of separate garbage disposable pit for degradable and toxic garbage, use of bio-degradable wastages along with common compost, covering and proper dispose of toxic wastage far-away from the habitation to protect further contamination of air and water.
  • Demonstration on drinking water protection and hand washing and explanation of the importance of the same
  • More proactive role of ASHA, AWW and community workers for betterment of women hygiene during menstruation etc.

Arup Kumar Saikia, DPO, Dibrugarh

Boat Clinic Models in Republic Day 2016 Tableau

CNES Boat Clinics model was part of Republic day parade

The Jorhat Boat Clinic took part  in the  Republic Day 2016 tableau being selected by theJorhat district Health Society to showcase health services provided to remote island villages. A 6-wheeler truck was used designed like an island village home with an ongoing vaccination programme.The GNM Jorhat Boat Clinic Elizabeth Kom demonstrating a vaccination camp.  

The Boat Clinic Barpeta Unit II was a part of the Republic day 2016 Tableau. The District Health Society included the Boat Clinic to be a part of the parade reflecting the good work that you are continuing to do in the district.


Overcoming challenges of access : Commuting to health camps


With the onset of the dry season and frequent dust storm, the Boat Clinic teams face a lot of problems accessing the island villages to conduct health camps. Often the team members fall sick and suffer from respiratory problems. Moreover, they have to push out the vehicle used in chars which often get struck in sand, a regular phenomenon on the way to char or back to boat. This hampers regular camp activities as well. Seen here the Sonitpur team trying to lift out a vehicle struck in sand.

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Problems of communications and access. Here the Barpeta Boat Clinic Unit II tries to pul out the three wheeler to reach the boat site out of the swampy field.

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The Nalbari Boat Clinic team walking to camp in an interior island village. With the onset of winter with rivers subsiding the Boat cannot be docked close to the villages. The  walking distance to camps increase.

Photographs from the field:

image039 image040 image041 Deworming session at Kathsapori, Bauahchuk and kachikata by the Jorhat Boat Clinic team.

image042 Children at Bhakatsapori getting ready to celebrate Saraswati puja.

image043 IPV awareness at Sengelisuti sapori


The Bongaigaon Boat Clinic team conducted a health screening camp (photograph above) at a river island L.P.School at UsungerCharPart III on 18th February 2016.Before conducting the camp the health team demonstrated basic hygienic practices such as hand washing and brushing teeth. Screenings were systematically done on Vit A deficiency, dental health,congenital cataract etc.Medicines were accordingly given and a few individual cases were referred for treatment.



Happy faces during a health camp at Amarpursapori, Tinsukia

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