C-NES Newsletter (For the quarter July – Sep 2010)
Mainland Discourse: The media ignores basic facts about the Northeast, J&K in its insurgency chatter
Across India, there is a bonding of searing pain, especially in its northern and eastern peripheries. The hurt and tumult envelops families and communities in a shroud of despair, whether it is in the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir or earlier in Punjab.
It has its roots in a political definition articulated by regional non-state groups (armed and civil society) that posits ‘mainland’ India as the ‘other’. The political challenge to the state, backed by armed revolt, has not been crushed despite deploying the army and paramilitary forces for over 50 years in the Northeast, and in Kashmir for over two decades. It appears to have been successful in Punjab but at an unacceptable cost. India truly has been at war with itself—locked with adversaries who have refused to blink or budge for the most part—but that appears to be changing. This is different from the groundswell of anger which has spread in central India as well as parts of Maharashtra, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The Maoist campaign has grown from an acute frustration at the lack of delivery on promises, from bad government and governance, from the system’s failure to provide basic health, education and livelihood opportunities 63 years after independence. The focus here is more on inequity and ineptitude of the state than on sovereignty. It should be clearly recognised that the politics of J&K and the Northeast have little or nothing to do with issues of underdevelopment that drive the Maoist agenda. The country’s media misses and messes this up time after time because they don’t have a memory of even contemporary history, forget what happened a century ago.It could be argued though that poor basic services and slothful, insensitive and corrupt administration have aggravated the political crisis both in the Northeast and Kashmir. This is often where the media fails to make the connection—insurgency and bad governance are part of the same coin, the same story—and often misses the point that lack of services exacerbates alienation. These are the kind of stories that must be leadership-driven, by editors of vision and perspective. For that, you need the kind of determined editors represented by the ilk of B.G. Verghese and P. Sainath. There aren’t many of them around.
The challenge in the Northeast—once India’s primary security threat—has abated in the past decades. On the ground, group after group, tired of unrelenting security pressure and living on the run, have opted for a cessation of hostilities or opened negotiations. The earlier power and romance when they even enjoyed some popular support is truly a thing of the past. Corruption has seeped into the core of their existence, a condition rarely reflected by the media. This is not to discount their capacity to re-emerge because of the Indian state’s ineptness and failure to take political advantage of favourable conditions. Few in the media reflect on this at any depth, for want of space, time or interest or all three.
In the line of fire Media persons rush for cover during an encounter in Srinagar, April 2005. ((AFP, From Outlook Magazine Nov 01, 2010 Issue)
On the other side, the men in uniform and government officials wonder why the media focuses on them and not the ‘anti-national activities’ of those opposed to the idea of India.
Amid this, the changing nature of conflicts is overlooked. There seems to be a tacit understanding within groups and civil society that an agreement assuring great political power within the Indian Union is better than no agreement i.e. a constitutional settlement, which till recently was anathema.
But the media, especially television, with its desperation for trp ratings (which for the most part are fudged anyway), is totally inconsistent and uncommitted to following up such issues in a sustained manner. Instead, it gives the impression of being a bull in a china shop with noisy, celebrity anchors and breathless reporters.
Thus, whenever the media raises the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which empowers soldiers to kill on suspicion and still not be prosecuted for murder, the discourse often focuses on an individual or the most visible sights of protest in Manipur. These discussions and the articles should have taken place and been written over the years. Too much is taken for granted: the metro media has made the mistake of focusing primarily on AFSPA as in Kashmir, forgetting that the act has been in place in the Northeast for over 50 years and that for most part of the decades where other parts of India had awoken “to light and freedom”, people in this region were being shaken by midnight knocks, destruction of homes, granaries and villages. Even basic facts are not stressed—for instance, in areas of maximum unrest in Kashmir, it is not the army that’s been deployed but the state police backed by central paramilitary forces. Indeed, our focus is limited; our viagra is the immediate, not the consequences or the sustainability of the story.
Yet, in the Northeast, the media’s fractured credibility would still be higher than the government or underground organisations. The reason for this is simple. Time and again, especially in Manipur and Assam, journalists have been the target of arbitrary killing and intimidation by armed non-state groups for their courage in speaking, writing and representing the truth. As far as the state is concerned, what it seeks to hide is extensive and devious—whether it is the atrocities committed under AFSPA or other legislation. Its credibility or otherwise is not helped, for example, when a group of reporters in Assam band together to write a stunning expose of the secret killings of relatives of ULFA members during the regime of Prafulla Mahanta.That’s why while AFSPA must go, it represents just one challenge. This law reflects impunity, built into the system and mindsets of those who rule, and we have been inept at covering both. Unless we understand that, we’ll get the story wrong and keep talking about street fights when the battles are elsewhere.
Published in Outlook Mazgazine (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?267562)
Review Visit by Trustee
C-NES Trustee, Chaman Lal (former Special Rapporteur at the National Human Rights Commission and former DGP, Nagaland) reviewed the functioning of the Boat Clinics in July 2010. Mr. Lal made a similar visit in December 2009 where he visited all 10 Boat Clinics. He met with all the district health teams. The visit to Barpeta scheduled for 21 July was cancelled under advice of the district administration in the wake of the serious law and order situation arising from Police firing on NRC protesters.
The Trustee assessed the performance of the C-NES units on the ground and took stock of their constraints and difficulties. He interacted at length with the boat clinic staff, local community members, district authorities and NRHM officials including Dr. J. B. Ekka, Mission Director, NRHM at Guwahati and apprised him of his assessment of the functioning of Boat Clinics. Mr Lal stressed on the need for special attention to the quality aspect of services, ensuring cent percent coverage of Ante and Post Natal Check ups and full immunizations. The review followed the broad objectives of the programme spelt out in the MOU signed by the C-NES with NRHM.
C-NES participation at conference on sanitation
Manik Boruah, Assistant Programme Manager, C-NES attended the national level conference on ‘Cost Effective Sustainable Sanitation” at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi in June 2010.The conference was organized by the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Institute (WASH) in collaboration with Ministry of Rural Development, Plan India, UNICEF, Water Aid and Water for People (WEF).
Over 250 participants were present at the conference from both Government and Civil Society Organizations including professionals, water and sanitation experts, research and technical institutions. Officials from the Urban, Rural and Health ministries (from both Centre and states) and heads of international NGOs were also present. The conference was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit.
Taking part in the discussion, Manik Boruah raised the question about sanitation coverage in the islands of Brahmaputra in Assam under Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) programme as these areas are left out from the benefits of TSC progamme.
Training on Capacity building
A two day capacity building training for ASHAs and ANMs on family planning and reproductive health was organized by C-NES at Dibrugarh’s St Xavier’s School on June 15 and 16, 2010. The training was part of the Population Foundation of India (PFI) supported C-NES project to popularize the concept of family planning among the Brahmaputra river island communities inhabiting five of the thirteen Boat Clinic districts in Assam -Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur.
The objective of the training was to promote capacity building on family planning and reproductive health issues, imparting a clear concept on family planning, methods involved, effective counselling skills for better community response and to make the participants capable of facing community queries.
There were 52 participants from Dhemaji, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia at the training including the respective district family planning counselors, ICDS workers, ASHA facilitators, community workers and general participants. Community Workers and ICDS workers were included in the training since they perform similar functions (as those of ASHAs) in remote islands where ASHAs are not available. Participants shared their field experiences on family planning issues, the challenges faced while counseling eligible couples and distributing contraceptives. Some of the challenges mentioned were religious beliefs and superstition, inhibitions, illiteracy, remoteness and social barriers. The participants provided feed back on what would appeal best to the community for promoting family planning measures. Success stories of community motivation were shared to encourage the participants.
Workshop on impacts of conflict in New Delhi
A two-day workshop was held in New Delhi on 26th and 27th July on the Internal and External Impacts of Conflict in the North-east. The workshop was organized by the Centre for Strategic Analysis in Chennai in collaboration with C-NES and the Delhi Policy Group. The workshop saw papers and presentations from scholars, activists and officials from the North-eastern region and New Delhi. Those who attended included Prof Udayon Misra, currently ICSSR National Fellow, Mr. Niketu Iralu, civil society leader from Nagaland and C-NES Trustee, Ms. Patricia Mukhim, editor of the Shillong Times and C-NES Trustee, Managing Trustee Sanjoy Hazarika, Mr. MP Bezbaruah, former Tourism Secretary and C-NES Trustee, Dr. Samir Das of Calcutta University, Mr. Dileep Chandan, editor of Asom Bani, Dr. Vijaylakshmi Brara of Manipur Diversity and Mr. Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Free Press. Scholars from CSA in Chennai as well as from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi participated in the discussions which covered a range of topics ranging from migration as well as militancies in the region. The Union Home Secretary GK Pillai spent time in an interaction session presenting his views on the challenges before the region and responding to questions and comments from about 40 participants. The papers and comments are to be published as a book by CSA and C-NES jointly in 2011.
Sanjoy Hazarika at power panel discussion
A power panel discussion on ‘Leveraging ICT for sustained development in the North Eastern region’ was held at New Delhi in June 2010, inaugurated by Mr. Bijoy Krishna Handique, Union Minister for Development of the North Eastern Region and Mines, who is also chairman of the North Eastern Council(NEC). The discussion was organized by the NEC, Government of India, and Intel Corporation, involving Members of Parliament, education ministers from Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Mizoram and education commissioners and officials from Meghalaya, Assam and other states as well as scholars and senior officials from the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Information Technology. The discussion chaired by Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee, C-NES, on June 21 saw an active interaction where all participants agreed that teachers and students needed better training and access to ICT for improved education skills. Earlier, there was an exchange of an MOU on collaboration between Intel and NEC.
Seminar on Panchayats
A seminar on Panchayats was organized in August 2010 at Guwahati’s Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok by C-NES to present findings and draft recommendations of a year-long study, ”Connecting the Dots: Improving the health status of women in rural Assam through improved coordination between Anganwadi workers, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Panchayats”. The seminar was attended by village representatives, AWWs and Ashas from Golaghat and Darrang, two districts where the research was conducted.
Dhurba Hazarika, Deputy Commissioner, Darrang and H N Bora, Deputy Commissioner,Golaghat were present at the seminar along with senior government officials from the Departments of Health and Social Welfare as well as UNICEF and made key contributions to the discussions.The session was also addressed by Dr Jayanta Madhab, Trustee, C-NES, who traced the organization’s growth while Sanjoy Hazarika, C-NES Managing Trustee, who chaired the meeting, pointed out that in many villages, there were no ASHAS or AWWs leave aside effective panchayats. “So many remain unreached and unrepresented and that is the real test,” he added.
The study was enabled by a grant provided by Irish Aid and its director was Dileep Chandan, editor of Asom Bani, who stressed the need to bridge the gaps between the different stakeholders. Manik Boruah of C-NES assisted him while two researchers from the districts completed the team, which conducted surveys, interviews, villagers and organized rural group discussions to arrive at a precise understanding of the issues and how to tackle them.
Seminar at Jamia
The Centre for NE Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia organized a seminar in September 2010, on “The North-east: Challenges of Governance”. Union Minister for Mines and the DoNER Bijoy Krishna Handique and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla were present among others, at the seminar where the DoNER Minister delivered the key note address on “History as a window- Understanding the North East” The Minister urged the academic fraternity present at the seminar to refocus their work towards highlighting the contributions of different leaders from the region in India’s freedom struggle. Ms. Jayati Chandra, Secretary, M DoNER, Mr. Najeeb Jung, IAS, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia, and Prof Sanjoy Hazarika, Saifuddin Kitchlew Chair at JMI, also addressed the seminar held at the Mir Anis Hall JMI. The Centre at Jamia, the first of its kind in any central University, is to be developed as Think Tank on the North-East. The Centre draws upon the expertise that C- NES already has in the field of research, on issues of connectivity of the North-East with other regions of South East Asia, migration, demographics, women in conflict situations, participatory planning and governance.
PFI Workshop on Inter Personal Communication (IPC)
A four day workshop (24 to 27 August 2010) on IPC was organized at Guwahati as part of the PFI project. The five District Counsellors for the project, Priyamjyoti Phukon (Lakhimpur), Rhitiz Gogoi (Tinsukia), Ridip Bordoloi (Sonitpur), Jugananda Dutta (Dibrugarh) and Deva Kakaty (Dhemaji) of the targeted districts were present at the workshop with Chandana Borah, State Advocacy & Family Planning Coordinator. The DPOs of the respective Boat Clinic districts- Amrit Kumar Borah, (Dibrugarh), Dulu Buragohain. (Dhemaji) Arup Saikia (Tinsukia), Tapon Borah(Lakhimpur) and Mousumi Duwarah. (Sonitpur) also attended. The PFI team from Delhi who facilitated the programme. included Sona Sharma, Joint Director, Lopamudra Pal, Research Associate and Nidhi Vats, Programme Associate Sona Sharma broadly discussed Communication process and IPCC. Mock sessions were conducted amongst the participants as part of IPCC. Lopamudra Paul demonstrated the procedure of filling up MIS forms using sample formats. Questionnaires were to be filled during the subsequent field visit. On 26th August 2010, a field visit was undertaken to the Balsidhi sub centre under Chaigaon PHC. The participants visited the community (door to door visits were made) and filled up the MIS formats. Lopamudra Paul and Nidhi Vats analyzed the formats and gave necessary suggestions.
Awareness campaign on family planning
C-NES’ family planning counsellors in the PFI-CNES project intervention districts of Assam have motivated women with regard to family planning. In all districts, the counsellors are actively supported by the community workers and the health team. After continuous awareness sessions undertaken by the health teams and FP counsellors , people are coming forward to adopt family planning measures. Sonitpur district has been the only exception where traditional religious beliefs and superstitions pose as impediments. To overcome these challenges an intensive awareness programme was organized in July 2010 in Sonitpur’s Sandhyar and Bootmari char under Dr. Abdul Warish, senior medical officer of the Dhubri Boat Clinic. Dr Warish had a detailed interaction with the local community and appealed to them to accept family planning for a better future, clearing much of their misconceptions. As a result a section of people from this district have shown interest in adopting family planning. Subsequently in August 2010, five women were sterilized
Supported by the Nagaon District Health Society, C-NES organized a sterilization camp on August 8, 2010 at Dhing’s First Referral Unit (FRU) under the initiative of Dr. Brajen Borah, Medical Officer of the unit. 8 beneficiaries from Sonitpur (Durura mari and Batuli char) were brought by the Sonitpur Family Planning Counsellor, Ridip Bordoloi and Community worker, Md Yusuf for the operation. Afsiya Begum, Anganwadi worker from Dururamari Char helped the FP Counsellor and Community worker in motivating the beneficiaries. After conducting the mandatory pregnancy test before the operation, three of the eight women were found pregnant. The remaining five were successfully sterilized.
Unicef team at Sapori schools
A UNICEF team comprising of Urmila Sarkar, Chief, Education, UNICEF India, Deepa Das, Education Officer and Memma Singha, Consultant, UNICEF, Assam office visited the Lowkiwali and Bhaisiwali sapori in Dibrugarh district. The visit was to see the progress of the Feeder schools initiated by C-NES with UNICEF support. The C-NES team was led by Sanjay Sharma, Associate Programme Manager and included Madhabi Lahon, Education Coordinator, Bhaskar Jyoti Bhuyan, CRS Coordinator, Jonali Pator and Jintu Baruah, Field Supervisors CRS, Santosh and Sanjay Yadav, Community Workers, and the Boat crew of Dhemaji Boat Clinic , SB Shahnaz.
A brief presentation on the Education initiative was made by Sanjay Sharma while Deepa Das highlighted the concept of Feeder school and said that this initiative has the potential to reduce the dropout rates at the primary level to a large extent especially in inaccessible areas such as the Brahmaputra river islands. Impressed with the feeder school model, Urmila Sarkar said that it could be upscaled to newer areas having similar profiles.
At the Lowkiwali feeder school, the UNICEF team interacted with the children. The villagers and the school Managing Committee were present. The headmaster of Sarikholia govt. LP (Nodal school) school, Dinanath Choubey was present at the school. Ratul Das of Sarba Siksha Abhigyan, also present on the occasion, promised 100 school bags for the children. The next school visited was Bhaisiwali Feeder School, founded in May 2010 at the behest of the women of the sapori. 31 children have been enrolled in this school so far and the team interacted with the children and the villagers for about an hour.
Awareness on RNTCP at Dhubri
An awareness session on Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) was organized by the Dhubri health team in collaboration with District TB Office, at Aminerchar in July 2010. The local ASHA, Anwanwadi worker, gaon panchayat member, village teacher, headman and villagers were informed in advance about the camp and they took an active part in the programme held at local L.P.School.
RNTCP is the State-run Tuberculosis Control Initiative of the Government of India. It incorporates the principles of Directly Observed Treatment- (DOTS) – the global TB control strategy of the World Health Organization . The program provides, free of cost, quality Anti-Tubercular drugs across the country through the numerous Primary Health Centres and the growing numbers of the private-sector DOTS-providers.
Dr. J.B.Roy, District TB Officer along with 4 technical staff of RNTCP attended the camp as resource persons. They spoke on RNTCP, TB and its complete cure by DOTS. The team stressed on the need for village ASHAs and Anganwadi workers becoming DOTS provider in the char village. More than 100 villagers attended the programme and responded positively to the camp held for over one and half hours.
Media on Boat Clinics
“Getting access to healthcare in rural Assam is never easy, and even more difficult during the monsoon, when the Brahmaputra River covers much of the land. But by delivering healthcare to the doorstep of the villagers, the boat clinic could mean the difference between life and death”.
Russian TV commenting on the Boat Clinics after attending a Boat Clinic conducted health camp at Nalbari in July 2010. A similar team from Delhi Doordarshan accompanied the Nalbari Boat Clinic team to cover a health camp at Barballa IV char in the same month. The camp was conducted in the EGS centre. Both teams took footages of the camps including immunizations, ANCs and general check ups.
|40 years old Bhakteswar Narah, from Moinapara sapori was found severely anemic, with a hemoglobin count of mere 3.7% by the Tinsukia Boat Clinic team in a health camp in July, 2010. He was given adequate doses of iron tablets and asked to report back to the team during the next camp. Expressing his gratitude to the team he informed the team that on account of his weakness, he has not been able to work at the paddy fields for quite a while now, which he can ill afford given his poor economic condition, the case is being no different with most of his fellow villagers he added.|