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C-NES Newsletter (July – September 2017)  

By the Brahmaputra (Vol: 39)



Discrimination, being North-eastern and ‘Indian-ness’

Being Indian is no easy task. We cannot be guided by one view of India, or how an Indian should look, what he or she should or should not eat or dress or behave. We need to move towards a more inclusive society and sense of community.

This is a matter that many are being forced to look at anew and rethink as thousands of people from the Northeast Region (no one seem to have an exact figure and this is an area which calls for good research), an unconfirmed figure that I have seen is 30,000 to 35,000 ), many of them from the most populous state of Assam, move every year outside the Northeast Region (NER) in search of jobs, better lives, opportunities and education.

The most visible — and it’s easy to create another stereotype of this group — are those who work in the hospitality industry such restaurants and hotels, salons or at malls as shop assistants and supervisors.

Young people from the Northeast however lead the way in sporting disciplines such as boxing, high-skill group activities like football or lead the way in music. Take any major football team in India — players from the region would compose certainly a handful. We could regard this as a resource drain — Individuals from the region migrate for better opportunities, divesting the region from their economic contribution. But I see it as part of a larger picture of internal migration and social change.

Across India, they hold a range of jobs, from the basic to high-level positions, seeking education, conducting research, teaching, working in government, as entrepreneurs, lawyers and in other professions.

It takes great courage to do what they are doing. Whereas some from an earlier generation staunchly opposed the idea of India and held onto an impossible dream of freedom and separation, many younger people these days are engaging with the Idea of India and reshaping it to their comfort and conviction.

We need to recognise this phenomenon. They may not have embraced ‘Indianness’ as much as people in other parts of the country. But they are engaging with it every day of their lives in metros and other locations, even at low, medium or even high risk to their dignity and safety. The most vulnerable are women, who face molestation, harassment and verbal abuse.

Many continue to face the bitter sting of discrimination. It has everything to do with appearance. I haven’t faced it so far. But others have. What is important to recognise now is that instead of quietly accepting the humiliation and nastiness heaped on them, younger people are courageously fighting back, resisting, forcing governments, employers, institutions and other civil society groups to take cognisance.

We cannot also close our eyes to the fact that there are many incidents of discrimination in the North-east. Those who face it as the ‘other’ here are mainlanders or part of the mukhya dhara, the ubiquitous mainstream: Traders, workers, professionals and students. There has been abuse and attacks just as many from the region have faced similar problems outside of it.These experiences across the board underline the urgency to developing a new law against race and hate crimes, as the MP Bezbaruah committee urged last year.

We may recall the 2012 exodus from Bangalore of individuals from the Northeast, fearful of rumours of impending attacks. More than 30,000 individuals were said to have left the city. But what the media did not report and we did not get to know till much later was that many more stayed behind. And of those who left, many returned. Because they were largely white collar workers who needed the jobs to sustain families and livelihoods. That’s why they did not want to stay home — they needed to go back and earn.

People vote with their feet; our children teach us: we have to listen and hear. We are saying to Delhi’s face: We are here, we’re here to stay, whether you like it or not. The nazar is either way and it doesn’t have to be a buri nazar!
Strangers have become migrants; they have become neighbours. They’ve even become colleagues. But have they understood each other, have they moved towards friendship?

This won’t happen with economic or political sops. One of the ways is to fiercely implement laws to deal with harm and injustice. But we have to go beyond laws, by influencing that most difficult and sensitive of tools: the human mind. This can happen by using multiple strategies: Curricula changes, sensitising mohalla and RWA groups, training police and administrators, MPs and political leaders.

Another is to develop incubation centres where, to start with, students of the region who plan to study and live in metros, get an orientation of and introduction to the cultures and society they will be inhabiting. Too often, we still hear of those who are caught unawares and come to harm.

The process of building goodwill and understanding remains a work in progress.

*Based on a talk at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, July 18 , 2017

(From Hazarika’s column in the Hindustan Times, 11th August 2017)

Screening of Rambuai

Sanjoy Hazarika addressing the gathering post screening

A screening of Rambuai, Mizoram’s ‘trouble’ years was held at the State Convention Center in Shillong on 28th August and viewed by about 70 persons.The trinity of Shillong’s music scene — the legendary Lou Majaw or the Bob Dylan of the region, Neil Nongkymrih, director of the Shillong Chamber Choir, and Soul Mate’s lead guitarist Rudy Wallang and lead singer Tipriti — were present along with scholars, students, lawyers, other professionals, media, serving and former government officials.

An interactive session followed the screening, lasting nearly 45 minutes with questions and comments to producer Sanjoy Hazarika, also Managing Trustee C-NES. Rudi Warjri, former diplomat, found the film “refreshing” and urged a follow up film. Patricia Mukhim, editor of the Shillong Times and C-NES Trustee, helped organize the event.Closing the discussions, Ramesh Bawri, of Bawri Industries, who also mobilized support for the program,  said the documentary gave a “message of hope” that people could overcome even the most intractable of problems.

Boat Clinic Medical Officers Training

A two day Medical Officers training of the Boat Clinic Units in association with NHM, Assam, Regional Resource Centre-NE (RRC –NE), RNTCP and Centre for Health & Development (CHD), Mangaluru was organized by C-NES on 3rd and 4th August 2017 at Guwahati’s Ginger Hotel . The training was held to upgrade the skills and competency of the Boat Clinic Medical Officers  who are not just treating patients but also educating the isolated insular communities that they serve. There were sessions on Maternal and child health, Family planning, National Health Programmes, mental health, disaster risk management along with global health  and global warming concerns.

Dr. Pankaj Suthar, Consultant, NHM, Assam, Dr. P. Bordoloi, State IEC Officer , RNTCP Assam,    Dr. D. Deka, WHO Consultant, NE Region and  Dr. S. Bora, State TB/HIV Coordinator were the resource persons on 3rd August. While Dr. Pankaj Suthar, gave a presentation on maternal health and new initiatives the team from RNTCP sensitized the  Medical Officers on TB/HIV. The presentations focussed on how to strengthen the relationship at the field level so that the MOs and s aff can utilize our Revised National TB Control Programme facilities to identify TB/HIV cases from hard to reach areas.

Dr Edmond Fernandes, Founder and CEO of the Mangalore based Center for Health and Development (CHD Group) was also present as a resource person. He trained the medical officers on a variety of public health areas including community medicine and public health issues. He spoke on a wide range of related issues including Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), National Health Policy 2017, Overview of Health in Disasters, Climate Change and Human Health Implications and building the case for public health activism at grass root level He also attended a health camp conducted by the Kamrup Boat Clinic unit on 5th August 2017.

Day II of the training on 4th August  started with a special address by Dr. Bamin Tada, Director, RRC-NE.  Dr Tada who had recently attended a health camp at Kamrup with a team from RRC spoke highly of the Boat Clinic health initiative and praised the field staff for dedicated service. A team of experts from RRC NE comprising of Dr. Joydeep Das, Sr. Consultant, Public Health Division, Dr. B. K. Shome, Sr. Consultant, Community Process Div. and Dr. Suchitra Rajkumari, Sr. Consultant, Quality Improvement Div. were also present at the workshop. The team  from RRC NE gave presentations on different aspects of Health Service Delivery including Public Health issues, Community Process and Quality in Healthcare.  Dr. Bhushan D. Choudhari, Assam and Dr B Mishra, Consultants, NHM, gave presentations on Child Health & New Born Care.  The sessions were interactive and vibrant. Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee was present towards the conclusion of the workshop and he addressed the participants followed by a discussion on various related issues. Mr Ashok Rao, Prgramme Manager delivered the vote of thanks.  Communications Officer C-NES Bhaswati Goswami moderated the programme A group photograph was taken with the MT.

Media on the Boat Clinic

ENT Specialist Volunteers at Health Camps

Dr.Abhijeet Bhatia, Associate Professor, ENT, NEIGRIHMS, Shillong volunteered at Boat Clinic health camps at Morigaon on 7th July 2017 and at Kamrup the next day, 8th  July. As the boat clinic targeted population live on the river islands, ENT cases, mostly among children is widespread. His visit helped the Medical Officers  learn preliminary hearing screening of primarily middle ear infections. Dr Bhatia was accompanied by Program Manager C-NES Ashok  Rao. He examined 42 patients at Morigaon and 22 at Kamrup, some were advised to go for operations. 

 C-NES at PHFI Health Care Summit

Bhaswati Goswami making a presentation on the Boat Clinics
Bhaswati Goswami and Manik Boruah with Dr Bamin Tada, Director, RRC-NE and a local participant

In an effort to

C-NES Manik Boruah (left) and Bhaswati Goswami (right) at the panels as speakers

strengthen health systems and explore emergent avenues and platforms for collaboration between various agencies and stakeholders in the Northeast region, the North East Health Care Summit 2017 was held on September 8-9 in Gangtok, Sikkim. The event, organised by the  Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in partnership with the Ministry of Development of the North East Region (MDoNER), the Government of Sikkim and the Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital (STNM), highlighted key issues in today’s evolving healthcare scenario pertinent to Northeastern parts of the country. Manik Boruah, Associate Programme Manager and Bhaswati Goswami,Communications Officer participated in the event as panelists.  While Manik Boruah was a speaker on the session Environmental Health concerns and Challenges in the North Eastern region on the 9th September while Bhaswati Goswami was a panelist on 10 th at the technical session Best Practice and Knowledge sharing from other states where she showcased the Boat Clinic health initiative of C-NES. Both presentations were keenly followed and appreciated by the gathering.

The summit was inaugurated by Arjun Kumar Ghatani, Minister, Healthcare, Human Services and Family Welfare, Sikkim along with PD Rai, Member of Parliament from Sikkim and member, C-NES Advisory Council. “Health records and parameters in Sikkim are the best amongst northeastern states, for which I would congratulate our Chief Minister for his visionary leadership because of which the government-backed Comprehensive Annual and Total Check-up for Healthy Sikkim (CATCH Sikkim) now reaches out to people even in the remotest areas of the state. But poor healthcare services in the Northeast and the need to enhance manpower, including setting up of more medical colleges in the region the requirement of the day,” Ghatani said while addressing the  attending delegates.

Lamenting that there is an absence of private sector interest and investment in Northeast, and hoping that the central government will allocate increased resources towards healthcare in this region, Rai  said, “I am happy that this summit has brought together political leaders, policy makers, healthcare professionals and implementers once again on a common platform to deliberate strategies for meeting public health challenges for the northeastern region. There is an urgent need to engage amongst ourselves in the sister states for enhancing public health and advancing technology in this region, ensuring better reach, quality and coverage of health services.”

Jayanto Narayan Choudhury, vice president, PHFI, said, “PHFI and its affiliate Indian Institute of Public Health in Shillong, aims to improve health outcomes in the entire  region through educational, research, training, policy and advocacy activities. With a view to complement various state and national level health initiatives, PHFI will be happy to actively assist all the 8 NE states to come up with a forward looking plan to improve the health scenario in the entire region, and so that NE becomes a major healthcare hub for entire Southeast Asia.”

The Northeast Healthcare summit concentrated on emerging health concerns in the region with a special emphasis on the current scenario in North East and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Boat Clinic in Rescue Mission

The Dhemaji Boat Clinic successfully rescuing marooned villagers to safety from their water logged homes in the islands

During the recent floods in Dhemaji district, residents of few river islands locally called sapories were trapped in their homes due to  sudden  surge and rise of water level in the Lali, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. The Dhemaji Boat Clinic swung into action were and successfully rescued them supported by a Jonai based organization, Mising Mimag Kebang (MMK) and local authorities. On 11th of August 2017, at 12.15 P.M, after consulting C-NES’ Programme Management Unit at Guwahati and informing the Joint Director, Dhemaji and District Programme Manager, National Health Mission,  a team of 10 members went to the following sapories: Badalpur Barman, Kangkan, Lamba Missing, Lamba Millon, Apsara and Chengajan Koibatra and began the rescue operation. 518 people were rescued before dusk. The Boat reached Majorbari Ghat at 5.30 P.M. The rescued people were shifted to Somkong high School for further care. Again during the first wave of floods in Lakhimpur district with Subansiri and Ranganadi the two major tributaries overflowing the Lakhimpur Boat Clinic in association with District Administration, DHS and DDMA conducted health cum relief camps in worse affected areas and treated 1904 patients in 23 camps.

Apart from regular scheduled health camps, C-NES’ Boat Clinics are also involved in emergency situations such as rescue operation, relief distribution, treatment and extending cooperation to the administration to help the needy dwelling in the Brahmaputra River Islands as and when required. Like earlier years, the 15 Boat Clinic units put in their best efforts while providing health care services to the marooned people in the river islands or  in the make shift camps initiated by the district administration. Many units were unable to provide services immediately during floods especially in Upper Assam as the Brahmaputra is more turbulent here and the district administrations put a ban on ferry movement till the river subsided to safety levels. Post floods is very crucial as diseases become more prevalent especially water borne diseases. All units have been continuously provided health care services, tirelessly, till date.

It needs mention that through its regular awareness generation programmes, Boat Clinic teams always stress upon preventive measures to be taken for protection against communicable or non communicable diseases along with imparting lessons on the do’s and don’ts to be followed during floods, post floods  or any such disaster situations. Such a holistic effort has contributed to minimizing risks to lives of people.

Solar Street Light installation by the Boat Clinics in Upper Assam:  A Report

Thanks to a philanthropist, remote villages in the Brahmaputra river islands in Assam has been lit up with solar street lights. The donor, Almitra Patel, is based at Bengaluru and is a member of the Supreme Court committee for Solid waste management for Class 1 cities, Technical expert, Swachh Bharat Mission, Government of India, Clean Jharkhand Project and Ganga ICDP Kanpur. She felt the need of the communities inhabiting the islands while reading an article on the Boat Clinics written in the Quartz India online magazine.  Partnering with Thrive Solar Energy Private Ltd, Hyderabad, which was recently awarded the second position in the category of Solar Home Systems by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Patel has donated one solar LED street light for every sapori, as the islands are called locally, that the Boat Clinics reach.  These compact lights with built-in batteries, designed and manufactured in Hyderabad, were sent fully assembled and ready to mount on a bamboo pole within ten minutes by the community workers of the health team in each of the 15 Boat Clinic units in 13 districts who were earlier trained for the purpose. The first lot of lights were installed at lower Assam districst 

In the second lot of solar lamps donated by Ms. Almitra Patel for the five Boat Clinic districts operating in Upper Assam- Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Jorhat and Lakhimpur, 92 Solar Street Lights were received from Thrive International, Hyderabad. The requirement was made based on a survey conducted by the Community Workers in respective districts. These riverine island villages are remotely located and out of all modern amenities. Kerosene is the only fuel to lighten up most homes in these areas. Due to lack of electricity, living standards are far behind mainland, there is economic underdevelopment and it significantly affects education of children. Very few families received solar lights under MLA or MP Local Area Development fund compared to the actual requirement.  Sunset envelops the villages in darkness. They must enter their homes before light fades as it is very difficult to locate homes otherwise. They have common centers, i.e. Namghar (community prayer halls), club houses and temples where activities are confined to daylight hours.

In such a backdrop the solar street light have literally brought rays of hope to their insular lives. They can celebrate and organize common functions in the evenings.  Villagers can identify or locate their villages even at night, especially those who comes to the ghat (river port). People are naturally delighted and offered their heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Ms. Almitra Patel for her generosity and to C-NES for bringing it to them.

Radio Brahmaputra

C-NES’ Brahmaputra Community Radio Station (BCRS) or Radio Brahmaputra as it is popularly known, is based at Dibrugarh, close to where the mighty river flows by at Maijan ghat. It was a proud moment for BCRS when on 10th August 2017, the Deputy Commissioner, Dibrugarh District, Ms Laya Madduri, inaugurated BCRS’ Brahmaputra Bani, part of the  interactive voice response (IVR) technology, probably the first its kind on various issues specially designed for adolescents and youth, free of cost. It will play in two languages- Assamese and Shadri (tea tribe dialect)and will have 8 different sections to opt for –  menstrual health, anemia, nutrition, child right, schemes & program for youth and adolescents, disease prevention, life skill and banking & finance.

The DC formally launched the Brahmaputra Banni by calling at the specific toll free number and wanting to know about anemia in  Shadri dialect. It needs mention that anemia is a big problem among the tea tribe community.  The programme was presented by Radio Producer,  Rumi Naik . The official appreciated the efforts made by the BCRS team while producing programmes..

The Coordinator of BCRS Bhaskar Bhuyan made a presentation about BCRS and about the findings of a community research on school drop outs by the local community volunteers, mapping solutions to resolve those challenges locally. The DC hoped that BCRS will be an integral part to the district administration to disseminate or extend the services to grassroots.

The DC being felicitated at the radio station
DC addresses the gathering

In socially excluded and geographically secluded areas like the river islands, tea gardens, and slum pockets, innovations like BCRS are  best suited to tackle issues of community concern. Recruitment of reporters from the communities, efforts to identify and cover issues of local importance, and interactive forums to share information, are some of the innovative features of BCRS .

A team from Don Bosco Institute, Tepesia, Sonapur near Guwahati visited C-NES Regional office in September 2017 and was given a presentation of the Boat Clinic health initiative and other social initiatives undertaken by C-NES. The team of students from the MSW stream were led by Jacob Islary, Lecturer, MSW. The team seen here with members of C-NES’ PMU unit.

Baby delivered

The Boat Clinic ANM handing the new born over to a relation

On 12th September 2017 while the Dhubri Unit  II Boat Clinic team was conducting a health camp at the char village-River Block No-11 under South Salmara BPHC by the river bank, a villager named Sobor Uddin approached the DPO Mehebub Alom Hazarika  and informed that his wife Nurjahan Bibi was undergoing severe labour pain and the local dhai (mid wife) was not being able to handle the delivery. Immediately few members of the health team rushed to the home and successfully delivered a healthy baby boy. The villagers expressed their gratitude to the team.

The JDHS, Addl.CM&HO, DIO and Dist.Community Mobilizer of NHM, Dhubri attended a health camp conducted by the Dhubri Boat Clinic Unit-II on 22nd August 2017 at the char village-Chalakura Pt-3 North where more than 200 villagers participated in the awareness session on post flood diseases management .

Documentary Team visits  Sonitpur Boat Clinic

The health team leading the visitors to the island village for conducting the camp
Health camp in progress

A documentary team from Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) visited a health camp conducted by the Sonitpur Boat Clinic team on 20th September 2017 to cover CSR activities conducted in various fields. The health team led by District Programme Officer Mousumi Dowerah actively supported the visiting team(photos below) It needs mentioned that the NRL has donated two Boats for the Boat Clinic programme- while SB Numali operates in Sonitpur, SB Kaliyani operates in Kamrup .

 World Breast Feeding Week by the Boat Clinics: A Report

C-NES in association with the Association for Promotion of Child Nutrition (APCN), Assam observed the World Breast Feeding Week with the theme (for the year)- “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” in the different island villages in the Boat Clinic districts to generate awareness on the importance of breast feeding among the women in chars. Although the Breast Feeding Week had to be observed in the 1st week of August, 2017 but due to sudden and high intensity floods, most of the units were unable to observe it on time. The Boat Clinic units conducted awareness sessions in which villagers were given various information on health issues especially focusing on women and child.

Problems of Access

The Kamrup Boat Clinic team on way to a health camp at Balagaon II  submerged under flood water in July 2017. The villagers attended the camp using small hand boat as the village was submerged by flood water.


The Boat Clinic health camps are held under extremely challenging conditions. During the dry winter months with river water subsiding, the boats often get stuck in the river bed and it is only after a lot of struggle that they are freed. The walking distance to the camp also increases much more during winters due to the Boat not being able to reach the village banks with subsiding water level. During summer there is no respite from the scorching sun and heat for the teams while conducting health camps in remote flood vulnerable Brahmaputra river islands. They have to walk for long distances to reach interior villages where the camps are scheduled. Monsoons find the Boat Clinics struggling their way through angry rivers with strong water currents, full to the brim and often overflowing banks. During monsoons and post monsoons the roads to the river banks are often damaged and full of potholes, negotiating through these stretches, in most cases only an apology for a road is a challenge. But camps are never missed.

Constellation with its head office in Belgium through their Indian partner Samraksha have entered into a one year partnership with C-NES from February 2017 to work together on a project titled “Impact assessment of the SALT ( Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn and Transfer) approach of community engagement to increase immunizations coverage through ownership – a mixed methods study in Assam. The SALT approach of community engagement initiated by Constellation has been widely appreciated and used by different organizations globally. C-NES had been given the responsibility to conduct the project in 30 villages of Bongaigaon district. The photograph above shows such an community interaction through the SALT approach at Bongaigaon’s Nayapara village by C-NES’ Bongaigaon team .

Successful FP initiative 

In August 2017 while observing “World Population Day” Boat clinic, Unit-2, Barpeta regularly arranged awareness sessions among eligible couple on family planning.  A list of beneficiaries motivated for laparoscopic sterilization and IUCD was accordingly prepared. Due to floods the date for operation was postponed from the 19th to 27th August. The Boat clinic brought  beneficiaries from the Baghbar and  a hired boat got beneficiaries from remote island villages like Uttar Sukherjar, Sayedpur, Aligaon N.C, Aligaon, Pathar and Sargaon char. From Manikpur

Ghat the beneficiaries walked to the Strakonora embankment and then two “108” health carriers  carried them to Barpeta Road FRU. There were 9 successful IUCD.


Tinsukia Boat Clinic ANM Tara Devi vaccinating a child at Majgaon village


Compiled by Bhaswati Goswami (

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