Wednesday May 22, 2019

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

Next Story

  Cloak And Dagger: Indo-Bangla Ties

Irrespective of who wins at the ballot, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority is persecuted by the losing side, as if it was their fault.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

 By:  Tania Bhattacharya           

 

Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

Twenty-first of February is an important annual date for the peoples of both, Bangladesh, and West Bengal. On that day in nineteen fifty two, students of East Pakistan’s institutions of knowledge like Dhaka Medical College, had been mercilessly struck down, after they were fired upon by the soldiers of West Pakistan. Their crime? Bangla, the indigenous mother-tongue of all Bengalis, irrespective of religion and location, had been the prime focus of East Pakistan’s ‘Language Movement’. The seat of power, despite the East’s relatively larger demographic, had been, for all means and purposes, firmly lodged in the West, separated from the Eastern wing, by thousands of miles of territory belonging to the state of independent India. West Pakistan wielded absolute power over Pakistan’s army, its internal security, administration and the judicial system. Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Saraiki, and Sindhi, were the most recognized and respected lingua franca. Bengali was deemed by the West, to be a ‘Pagan’ language, the tongue of millions of ‘kaffirs’ that worshipped a plenitude of deities.

 

 

indo-bangla
Ansal-al-Islam supporters demand the death of Atheist bloggers.

The Bengalis, a people deeply protective of their cultural heritage, cutting across religious lines, took offense, and thus commenced the movement for the restoration of Bangla, as the legitimate representative of the East Bengalis. What followed, is well known, to South Asian History, enthusiasts. Exploiting the opportunity that had presented itself, and asphyxiated by more than ten million Bengali refugees who had migrated to eastern India in wake of ‘Operation Searchlight’ imposed by West Pakistan on its eastern wing, India had invaded the latter in the early December of 1971. The shortest war of modern history, had ended a fortnight later, with the emergence of an independent homeland, for all Bengali speaking peoples: Bangladesh.

Assam
An Indian publication reporting the Nellie Massacre of Assam.

Bangladesh turns forty-seven on the twenty sixth of March this year. Over the last nearly five decades, much water has flown under the bridge. Significantly, it has taken along with it, a bulk of the initial bonhomie and camaraderie, that Bangladesh and India shared with one another. From trustworthy allies, the two neighbours, have now entered a phase of grudging respect, but that too is often found in suspended animation, once anti-Indian regimes come to power in the other country. There are a number of reasons why India and Bangladesh have experienced a souring of relations over time, and much to the ordinary Indian’s chagrin, not all of the blame can be laid at our eastern neighbour’s door.

Pakistan
The 1971 surrender of West Pakistan.

BANGLADESHI CONCERNS

 

  1. A) WHAT’S IN A PICTURE? EVERYTHING!

Any patriotic Indian, often ruminates fondly over a well circulated photo that emerged in the December of 1971. It was taken during the capitulation of the West Pakistan army to India. The photo is held up by Indian nationalists, like a trophy and proudly referred to as the ultimate symbol of India’s crushing of Pakistan. This historic photo in question, has a sombre Lt. Gen. J.S. Arora, looking on, as a visibly demoralized Gen. A.A.K. Niazi of Pakistan signs the document of surrender. A sea of khaki and army green dot the backdrop of the image. Smiling soldiers of the Indian Defence Forces, can be seen interspersed between high ranking members of the Pakistan Army. However, remarkably, missing from the image, is the presence of the very people, who had had to sacrifice their life, their limb, and their precious dignity, to make their own independence happen.

Indira Gandhi
Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujib with Indira Gandhi. The two shared a close friendship.

As time has passed, millions of Bangladeshis have taken stock of the historic footage that seemed to signal their freedom day, and yet, they have asked: “Where are our people?” Yes, indeed. It is a photograph that, once the euphoria had died down, was bound to reveal its troubling nature. It may have been the defining moment for our own military men, but for the patriots within our newly born neighbour, this image is one of being slighted; of being overlooked, and insulted. Indians should have realized awhile back, that parading the said photo, was not a wise thing to do. The newly liberated nation, did not and to this day, cannot claim the image as their own, due to the complete absence of any East Bengali presence.

 

  1. B) WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE, BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK!
protests
Bangladeshi atheists and freethinkers protest the murder of their own.

In 1996, Bangladesh and India had signed a treaty over the sharing of river waters. The agreement – known as the Ganges Treaty – had promised to equally divide the volume of river waters shared by the two nations. Waters of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin, constitute the globe’s second largest hydraulic region, with a high population density inhabiting its banks. Simply put, the so-called division of water, is neither fair, and nor useful, to Bangladeshis. Through the Farakka Barrage, India, with its advanced systems of harvesting trans-boundary water, virtually controls the upstream flow of currents, which it then utilises without a care for the consequences being experienced by the people that live around the downstream currents of the barrage. As a result, Bangladesh has become a victim of environmental degradation which is a direct consequence of India’s water harvesting policy and techniques. Flora and Fauna, especially a variety of edible fish, important to our eastern neighbour, have either drastically lessened, or come close to extinction, due to callous and selfish, Indian interests over river-water sharing.

police
A troublesome photo.

INDIAN CONCERNS

 

  1. A) THREE IS A CROWD!
assam

Illegal immigration into Assam from Bangladesh has created Distrust and concern among the locals.

A fundamental problem that posited itself even before the Liberation War in East Pakistan was over, and should have been a dark indicator of what was to come, was the deluge of refugees that had escaped the porous Indo-Pak border at its eastern end, and come to stay in India, as hopeful citizens. Even though Bangladesh is itself a witness to a refugee apocalypse in the form of the Rohingyas, they do not seem to be able to join the dots between their own problem, and that of India’s, for which their homegrown, poverty-stricken population is responsible. The Indian state which has borne the brunt of our refugee crisis, has been the north-easterly one of Assam. Bordering Bangladesh, this volatile Indian region has had to absorb the vast majority of illegals that continually transgress into our territories, by paying a small bribe to the jawans of the BSF (Border Security Forces), and obtaining false ration and identity cards. Bangladesh has chosen to delude itself by claiming time and again, that the alleged social scenario is an impossibility, accusing India instead, of tainting Indo-Bangla ties with our calumnies against them. In a heart-breaking tragedy that unfolded in the Nellie town of Assam in 1983, thousands of Muslims were slain by the local Assamese, over fear of the former’s illegal alien status.

water