Barsimaluguri: Story of transformation of an Assam village

Barsimaluguri village in Assam gets a new life, thanks to efforts by an NGO and villagers.

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School in village Barsimaluguri Picture from FB page : https://www.facebook.com/borsimaluguri/

Barsimaluguri village in Assam sees a transformation, thanks to civic engagement by an NGO Nanda Talukdar Foundation (NTF)

An insurgency-hit village in Assam’s Himalayan foothills where the residents long suffered stomach ailments due to the iron-contaminated water and only 10 percent of its around 250 households had proper sanitation facilities is now cited as the first ‘smart village’ in the entire northeast — thanks to two non-resident Assamese and a veteran journalist.

On the international border with Bhutan, Barsimaluguri village in Assam has just 234 families. It is Situated in Baksa district — one of the four Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) administered by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

“It was a typical village — backward in every sense. A baseline study said only 10 percent (households) had sanitary toilets,” Mrinal Talukdar, a journalist with over 25 years of experience and who currently heads NGO Nanda Talukdar Foundation (NTF), told IANS from Guwahati.

The NTF, which has been involved since 2015 in direct grassroots intervention through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives by adopting backward villages and turning them into model villages, zeroed in on Barsimaluguri for its next project.

“We wanted an insurgency-infested yet reachable place from Guwahati within a radius of 150 km due to logistical reasons. We were interested in the north bank of the Brahmaputra river in the foothills of Bhutan… an area not many people venture out even today,” he said. The village in Baksa, 80 km from Guwahati, fit the bill.

Yarn Bank set up in the village Barsimaluguri.  Picture from FB page : https://www.facebook.com/borsimaluguri/
Yarn Bank set up in the village Barsimaluguri.
Picture from FB page : https://www.facebook.com/borsimaluguri/
 The foundation roped in Anirudh Goswami, working in Delhi, and Surajit Dutta, based in Bengaluru, for a project to turn backward Barsimaluguri into a modern village full of facilities.

Goswami provided technical and organisational support to the NTF, which managed to convince a leading financial PSU to fund the initiative while Dutta served as the project leader.

The NTF project was shortlisted by Himachal Pradesh-based consultancy HIMCON, which in turn roped in donor India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL) to underwrite it.

Talukdar said the foundation decided to work on 4-5 aspects to make it a model village — safe drinking water, total sanitation, alternative power, skill development and employment generation besides improving facilities for sports and education.

And the results are evident — solving the problem of its metal-tainted water, Barsimaluguri has now become the first village in Assam to have a reverse osmosis (RO) plant which can deliver 500 litres of standard mineral water in an hour, while nearly half the households have got new sanitary toilets.

“The RO plant is managed by the villagers. They pay Rs.120 per month and take 20 litres of water a day. Which means 20 paisa per litre. They spend the money on salaries and upkeep,” said Talukdar.

“In a bid to end open defecation, the project, surmounting the challenges of logistics and quality manpower and heavy monsoon, constructed 100 toilets in the village. We have covered almost 50 percent of the total households,” he said, adding that they were “proud” to be associated with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

The brightest part of the intervention was the solar energy component — 100 houses were given solar kits and 75 streetlights were installed making Barsimaluguri the envy of every neighbouring village as it remains illuminated the whole night.

Talukdar says the project simultaneously moved to improve human resource, with a series of camps held for legal awareness, women empowerment, child development and skill development through the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship.

“It’s now time for us to pack up. We have identified another village, Jajimukh in Jorhat district. Now the hunt is on for a sponsor — that is the most difficult part,” he said.

“Every project has its challenges. Barsimaluguri had the challenge of the (Bodo militant group) NDFB and Jajimukh will have problems of transportation as there is no direct road there and one has to reach the village by boat,” he said.

The foundation has a broad palette of activities — starting with preservation of 19th century books, it now visits about 400 villages a year to conducts social audit of self-help groups developed by the State Institute of Rural Development and is also developing a teaching module on coverage of children and women for journalists with help from Unicef.

“Now Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) has given us three villages in the vicinity of Golaghat to transform into smart villages and develop a sustainable model of livelihood,” says Talukdar. IANS

(Prantick Majumder can be contacted at prantick.m@ians.in)

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    After being ignored by Indian government and media at least something good is happening with the efforts of NGO .. Being a part of India, the people of north-east are ignored.. When Anna ji was fasting, media was actively covering each incident but nobody knows about Irom Sharmila who is fasting since more than 60 years to protest against AFSPA.. Also, after the Nirbhaya incident everyone was criticising the culprits but does anyone know about Thangjam Manorama? Is anyone aware of the Assam floods of September 2015 which left over 2 lakhs people homeless.. Most of us don’t.. as media was busy in covering Sheena Bohra murder case..

  • Shubhi Mangla

    Great to hear that utmost care of cleanliness is taken in Hingol pilgrimage…Many pilgrimages in India are unfortunately unclean

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  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    After being ignored by Indian government and media at least something good is happening with the efforts of NGO .. Being a part of India, the people of north-east are ignored.. When Anna ji was fasting, media was actively covering each incident but nobody knows about Irom Sharmila who is fasting since more than 60 years to protest against AFSPA.. Also, after the Nirbhaya incident everyone was criticising the culprits but does anyone know about Thangjam Manorama? Is anyone aware of the Assam floods of September 2015 which left over 2 lakhs people homeless.. Most of us don’t.. as media was busy in covering Sheena Bohra murder case..

  • Shubhi Mangla

    Great to hear that utmost care of cleanliness is taken in Hingol pilgrimage…Many pilgrimages in India are unfortunately unclean

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First CNG station Opened in Dibrugarh, Assam

Assam CM launches state's first CNG station in Dibrugarh

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first cng pump of assam
Assam's CM inaugurated the first-ever CNG fuelling station of the state in Dibrugarh. WikiMedia Commons

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Saturday inaugurated the first-ever CNG fuelling station of the state in Dibrugarh.

Sonowal said that to make Assam free from air pollution and to promote the use of clean and green fuel, State government is preparing a roadmap for setting up CNG fuelling station in all districts of the state.

He also said that since vehicular emissions take a toll on the health of the people, the State government is working sincerely to promote the use of compressed natural gas in the state.

assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal
Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurates first CNG pump. WikiMedia Commons

“Making a pollution-free state is one of the primary objectives of the government and therefore, the government, has been taking series of steps to make Assam free from the scourge of pollution and its manifestations,” he said.

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“With the use of CNG, every citizen can contribute to a pollution-free environment for the future generation of the state”, Sonowal added. (IANS)

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Assam Government Relaxes Restrictions on Cultivation of Scented Agar Tree

This will promote cultivation of Agar and Chandan in the state

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In a landmark decision, the Cabinet approved growing and cutting of Agar and Chandan trees on non-forest lands. Pixabay

In a welcome move, the Assam government has relaxed the restrictions on cultivation of the scented Agar tree.

“In a landmark decision, the Cabinet approved growing and cutting of Agar and Chandan trees on non-forest lands. This will promote cultivation of Agar and Chandan in the state. The Cabinet also approved setting up of an International Trade Centre for Agar in Golaghat,” said Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in a tweet.

‘Aquilaria malaccensis’, which is locally known as Xasi or Agar, is used in world class perfumeries as a fixative and is highly prized by European perfumers for mixing their best grade scents. It acts as a stimulant, cardio tonic and carminative, aphrodisiac, alternative anodyne, anti-diarrheal, anti-asthmatic and astringent.

“The Assam cabinet has kind of liberalized the Agar plantation and its felling. Now there is no need for registration for Agar cultivation up to 35 bighas of land. This is going to boost the state’s economy to a great extent,” said a senior industry department officer in Assam.

Assam, Government, Agar Tree
In a welcome move, the Assam government has relaxed the restrictions on cultivation of the scented Agar tree. Flickr

The plantation of Agar tree is seen in Assam’s Sibsagar, Sadiya, Nagaon, Darrang, Goalpara and Cachar districts of Assam. Apart from Assam, the tree is also grown in Khasi Hills and Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya and also found in the forests of Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.

The All Assam Agar Traders and Agar Oil Manufacturers’ Association has been demanding the state government to exempt agar wood from the purview of Assam Wood Based Industries (Establishment and Regulation) Rules 2000 and bringing them under the Secondary Wood Based Industries.

“As Agar wood was classified under the wood based industries, cutting of Agar tree was not allowed and there was requirement of registration for sending the same outside,” said the senior official adding that the move would also help stop the illegal Agar trade, which is estimated to be of Rs 10,000 Crore.

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At present the Hojai district in Assam is the hub of distilling the agar oil. More than two lakh people are directly dependent on this Agar cultivation and illegal Agar trade in Assam. In Hojai alone, there are over 2,000 distillation units of Agar. (IANS)

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Assam Tea Growers Start No Sickles Campaign to Ensure the Overall Quality of Assam Tea

During the last 35 years there has been a huge increase in the land area under tea cultivation

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Although Assam tea is known worldwide for its quality due to hand plucking of 'two leaves and a bud', some of the gardens have resorted to harvesting tea leaves. Pixabay

To ensure the overall quality of Assam tea, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has started a ‘No sickles’ campaign among the tea gardens of Assam.

Although Assam tea is known worldwide for its quality due to hand plucking of ‘two leaves and a bud’, some of the gardens have resorted to harvesting tea leaves with sickles (which is popularly known as kasi) affecting the quality of the tea.

Chairman of NETA, Nepul Saikia said this on Wednesday while adding that the organization has started the campaign “Say NA to Kasi for tea harvesting” from today and added that the campaign is basically to bring awareness amongst the tea producers not to use sickles during harvesting of tea leaves.

He said that during the last 35 years there has been a huge increase in the land area under tea cultivation. In 1990, Assam’s tea production was only 388 million kgs which has grown to 692 million kgs in 2018.

Assam, Tea Growers, Sickles
To ensure the overall quality of Assam tea, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has started a ‘No sickles’ campaign. Pixabay

“There has been an increase of about 300 million kgs in 28 years which is about 80 per cent increase in production in 2018 compared to 1990 figures. However, there is a shortage of workers in peak cropping months – July, August, September and October. To overcome the shortage of workers some growers have resorted to harvesting tea leaves with sickles,” he said adding that the tea leaves harvested with sickles are of very poor quality and this is one of the major reasons for the quality failure of Assam tea.

“As per the latest Tea Board figures, about 49 per cent of tea produced in Assam is from the green tea leaves by small tea growers. Though a majority of small tea growers do not use sickles throughout the year we have started this campaign before it is too late”, said Saikia.

“This campaign is to basically bring awareness amongst tea growers on the harvesting of quality tea and also to bring the attention of policymakers in providing growers with substitutes like shears, battery operated plucking machines and one/two men operated harvesting machines”, said Bidyananda Barkakoty, Adviser NETA.

The Tea Board has a field mechanization scheme of 25 per cent subsidy on plucking and pruning machines for general category and 100 per cent subsidy for SC & ST. “This scheme can be further popularized amongst the growers and subsidy amount should be increased to 75 per cent for general category”, Barkakoty added.

Also Read- India: Government to Help Develop Required Skill Sets Needed By Industries Across the Spectrum

“A Guwahati-based investor is developing a plucking machine with an Israeli technique and we are expecting a prototype of it in October. This plucking machine which is in the designing stage now will help in selective harvesting of tea leaves similar to hand plucking”, he added. (IANS)