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Backward Assam Village Heads for Brighter Days

Gone are the days of illiteracy and poor living conditions

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Rani (Assam): Forty-five-year-old Dhaneswar Boro is excited that his days of illiteracy are over. He can now write his name is Assamese and he is gradually getting to know his rights as an Indian citizen.

But it was a bleak story till last year. Life remained stuck in a morass of underdevelopment in Bakrapara village in Rani development block, just 30 km from the state’s main city of Guwahati. However, the winds of change are now blowing, thanks to Guwahati’s NPS International School that has adopted the village as part of its CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative.

Bakrapara, Assam
Bakrapara, Assam,Image Source: www.thehansindia.com

For decades, Dhaneswar and his fellow villagers here lived without the basic facilities. Their life revolved around cultivating land, fishing and selling the catch in the local market. Many among them earned their living as daily labourers. The developmental schemes of the central and state governments didn’t reach this village, which lies in the Dispur assembly constituency.

The curse of illiteracy passed on from one generation to another- the 70 families here could not afford to send their children to school due to lack of money. The dark shadow of poverty loomed large.

But all that’s in past now, ever since the village was adopted by NPS International School in 2015.

Related article– Barsimaluguri: Story of transformation of an Assam Village

“We adopted the village in 2015 as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility and we are working for the betterment of the living conditions of the people,” NPS International School director J.N. Das told IANS.

“The families here belong to the BPL category and we are training them on alternative livelihood options.

“We have brought in experts to train the villagers on rearing pigs, ducks and chicken, which has benefited them economically,” Das added.

Thanks to the effort, several villagers have now taken up rearing pigs, ducks, goats and chicken, moving away from their traditional occupations.

It’s also changing for the senior villagers, for whom the school organises literacy camps. They are also being trained on health, hygiene and other issues.

The initiative also has an environmental aspect to it — the villagers are being made aware about the hazardous effects of plastic.

“We are telling them about the need to conserve the environment,” Das informed, adding that the the village has been declared a ‘no-plastic zone’ and anyone found dumping plastic and other non-biodegradable waste is slapped with a fine.

The villagers have planted about 100 saplings last year as part of the green initiative.

Das’s claims are endorsed by Dhaneswar. “There have been so many changes here after the NPS School adopted the village. We are learning how to conserve the nature. My wife has been trained on rearing duck and chicken. It is benefiting us economically,” Dhaneswar told IANS.

“Politicians come here only at the time of elections. But now, the days are changing for good. I feel the younger generation will see better days,” chimed in Dipak Basumatary, another villager.

A primary school was set up in the village about 20 years back. The few children who study there now have a chance to interact with their counterparts at the NPS International School.

“These interactions will certainly benefit our children as they will learn a lot of new things,” said Ila Kachari, an elderly village woman, who proudly added that she too can now write her name after participating in the literacy program.

“The village used to be backward. But we are now developing it as a model village. We are ensuring that the villagers participate in all the activities,” Das said. (IANS)

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  • Shubhi Mangla

    Still many villages of Assam are underdeveloped…hope this initiative improves their condition too

  • Paras Vashisth

    This is very good because most of the north east part is not fulfilled with basic facilities but now from this it helps them to make a new identity.

Next Story

Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)