Thursday, December 07, 2006

Documentary on Singur issue

There is a very informative documentary on the Singur issue titled 'Abaad Bhumi' which I finally got around to watching in full (it's 59 minutes long), and I regret doing this so late. It examines several aspects of the entire issue -- including the fertility of the land, the reliability of promises made regarding rehabilitation of the peasants, similar issues from the past.

For people who can't download/watch the entire documentary, here are some extracts:
This shows how fertile the land being sold off for industrialisation
at Singur is and effectively counters arguments against its value in
terms of productivity and yield.

This shows how farmers will lose their livelihood and their economic
condition will worsen if the factory replaces the agricultural land
(despite claims denying this).

This shows the story of how the Tata Metaliks factory near Kharagpur
worsened the condition of the peasants previously living/farming there.

This shows how badly-hit end-of-the-line farmers (for whom the land is
their life) will be, and also shows how bigger land-owners who have
other sources of income are ready to sell the land for a good price.

The original documentary from which these have been extracted is also
very much worth watching.

Also, here are some clips of recent events at Singur:

1. Police violence on farmers

2. Ground realities at Singur (CNN-IBN)

3. Picture of compensation given to farmers

Update from Mathurapur, 3rd December 2006

by Sombodhi, AID Kolkata

We are currently focussing on the preventive part of healthcare..
In fact we have repeatedly observed that these rural villagers lack the basic awareness related to health and hygiene. So we are planning to launch massive awareness camps..
We will also be conducting health-related surveys to create a database for the villages for reference on our further works and projects...

We are also in talks to start off with a night school-vis a vis a Community Developement Centre which will work to create social awareness amongst people/work towards promoting primary education and also try and create different Self-Help Groups which will be working to promote employment generation for these people....

For employment generation activities we are focussing on teaching the people to make paper fact we are in the process of doing a market survey to identify what the market demands are and how we can cater to a small fraction of it..We have identified paper bags as its very easy to make and though the profit margin is low the market demand is huge and the supply is inadequate..Infact we not only plan at making simple thongas but also will be tryin to teach the villagers to make hardier paper bags which will carry more weight and can be used by various Super-marts/malls...

As have already been said over and over again we are in dire need of volunteers who can spare some time and effort/ideas which will help us do more work in a more efficient manner..All the plans we have outlined here are already in the implementation phase and we will be delighted if more people can come forward to help us...
we do need funds and volunteers to carry these projects please come forward...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Singur: violence continues even as Medha Patkar arrives

Published in The Statesman, 3rd December 2006

Sign the petition if you want to stand by the farmers of Singur

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Singur: why snatch away fertile land from farmers?

Many people are actually supporting the eviction of farmers from the (very fertile) land which has fed them for years in order that a state-of-the-art automobile factory can come up. What needs to be realised is that technological progress at the cost of human and ecological tragedy is worthless. And those supporting the government's and the automobile manufacturer's actions need to understand that this is both a human and an ecological tragedy. How this is a human tragedy is very easy to see. Suppose, one fine morning you are driven out of your job (don't jump and say 'I'll find another one') since (rather like a spaceship blasting away the earth as it was obstructing an inter-galactic highway in H2G2) a huge palace is being built where your company stood -- and by a turn of circumstances your only job in hand is being a sweeper in the palace. If you find this a helpless situation, maybe you will see the plight of the many farmers who are being robbed of their livelihood. As for the ecological part, it is even more simpler. We don't feed on automobiles. By using fertile land for such purposes we are actually robbing our children of food.

Here's a nice and long documentary on the issue by Sumit Choudhury, a documentary film-maker:

And here's the latest video report from Singur, courtesy IBN

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dakshin Durgapur boys get a library of their own

"The road to knowledge begins with the turn of the page."-Anonymous

November 12th saw the inaugration of a small library in the Dakshin
Durgapur Home set up mainly by the collaborative effort of members of
CRY and PRAJAK. AID Kolkata had also been associated with the project, that's Y
Satabdi, Bhavya, Bodhisatta, Sombodhi and Indraneel –AID Kolkata
volunteers were present on this occasion at the home.
The library was dedicated to the fond memory of Subhankar,volunteer of
both Prajak and AID.The aim behind this small library is to inculcate
the habit of reading among the young kids. It consists of books of all
types ranging from stories,general knowledge to academic as well, in
both English and Bengali language.
A small inaugration programme was held which started with some
preliminary speeches by Subhankarda's father,"Dadu" and some other
guests.The kids put up a small programme after that where they sang
and recited poetry and seemed pretty enthusiastic about the
library.Even the volunteers took part in the programme enthused by
their high spirits.
Afterwards a collage made of hand prints of the kids and the
volunteers with their respective names were taken on a piece of cloth
which would be later hung in the library room.Separate identity cards
were issued for each child.The older children of the home were also
given tips by the volunteers on ways of efficiently managing the library.
After the inaugration of the library by "Dadu" a meeting was held
where Prajak members intimated all volunteers present about their
future activities in the year 2007.A common consensus was also reached
that the creation of the library mustn't mean an end to the work we
have begun-we must all ensure that it runs efficiently and that we
should try and increase the number and variety of books that are there.
We do hope that this library proves to be a success story and that the
children realize the importance of books in ones life.The successful
implementation of this project through the combined effort of all the
different organizations have been a huge boost to our confidence.We do
hope and pledge to do more work like this in the future.

Day two of the Mathurapur Primary Health Camp

As we all are aware that the primary health care center has already
been set up in Mathurapur through the tireless efforts of all the AID
Kolkata volunteers on 29th October,2006.
As per plans, today Uddalokda and I went to moniter the progress of
the project in Mathurapur; today being the second week of the Health
Care camp.
The Initial Response is phenomenal and work is going on pretty
smoothly at present.But there are some problems that everyone is facing.
This is a preliminary notification that I am sending on the
developments over the last one week and the problems that the
villagers are facing at the moment…please note-the detailed project
report of today will be sent to all very shortly.

1. Very basic Health awareness is absolutely missing among these
people.They are not even aware what can be described as being sick and
what not,when to visit a doctor and when not to.
2. Hygiene and sanitation are absolutely missing.
3. Mathurapur is largely a dry area and not much water is
available.Also coupled with this is another problem -the under-ground
water reserves are very low.So most people rely on the ponds that
collect rain water through most of the year,;in winter and summer they
all use tubewells.
Now problem with that is they are defeceating and washing/bathing in
the same pond.Hence, feacal contamination is very high.
4. People are unaware of treating problems like minor
cuts/burns/bruise etc.
5. Nutritional level is very poor and the BMI of most child patients
is abnormal.

I would also like to add a few more important aspects to this report:

When we started this healthcare centre we actually planned to just
cater to very basic cases.Now we find that miscellaneous patients with
all sorts of health issues(which can be termed as basic problems) are
coming to the camp.
Hence, the medicines etc that we had previously supplied may not
suffice and we may have to increase the spectrum of healthcare to make
it a little broader.
Also villagers there are complaining that at times the camp is not
providing all the medicines prescribed and they are being asked to buy
a few medicines from the pharmacy.They want us to address this issue.

People there urgently want us to try and start of an eye-care
centre.This is a demand which we found came from various quarters.
People also requested us to look into the possibility of whether we
can educate the villagers on how to take care of their primary health
needs.They also seemed eager to learn about the various medicinal
plants that can be produced indigenously and how they can use these
plants/herbs to cure some essential ailments.

Some others problems that came to our notice is:
· There is no toilet adjacent to the health centre .
· Not much has been done to make the people of the village and
adjacent areas aware of the health camp.
For this we have requested the members of Samaj Unnayan Kendra to make
random publicity in the villages so that more people come to know
about this and take advantage of it.

We also noticed that people there are very enthusiastic to work and
help us in any way they can.They are ready to support us in our efforts.
We at this moment need to collect more information on what the disease
profile of the place is like(abput which we will get a clear idea in
the weeks to come).
We are also in talks to make Health related surveys and also make
Health Awarenss camps.For this we need more manpower and volunteers
who can pledge their time and energy.We also would welcome any new
ideas and suggestions that may make our project better in any way


Monday, July 03, 2006

"..And in its dark dingy lanes today I had a tryst with life."

I came across a different world today,may be the real world.Right at
the heart of kolkata, which is making great headaway with its
malls,high-rises and skyscapers,there lie sprawling slums with
conditions so deplorable that you might just doubt if you are at the
gateway to hell. And in its dark dingy lanes today I had a tryst
with life.

We were initiated with a tour of the large slums stretching in and
around Tollygunge.I had never set my foot on a place like that
before.Alleys one can barely scrape through took us to the most
deprived corners of the city.Women were busy cooking their meagre
mid-day meals in the dingy rooms,at most 6 by 6 feet,crammed with
furnitures and possessions ,which would probably be cast off by us
without as much as a second thought.In many cases I noticed that the
cooking went on dangerously beside plastics and rags serving as
curtains and sometimes even as walls.The breadearners of the
families in these shanties range from beggars to thieves,from
rikshawalas to hawkers.Each family has some 5-6 inmates including 3-
4 children,mostly malnourished and without proper education
facilities.Health and hygiene is a sordid state of affair.With no
proper sanitation and a choked creek flowing right through the slum,
the stench is unbearable.It's difficult to imagine the woes of the
people living there without the very basic necessities like supply
of clean water.Surprisingly though, many of these families own a
colour television set,all turned on to some `k'-serial at that hour
of the day.

These shanties , poor and harmless as they might seem in the
daytime,become hubs of criminal activities as darkness sets in.With
illicit flow of booze and drugs,thriving brothels and several other
illegalities, the environment is too stressful for children like
Arpita,Debapriya and Rinki to have a healthy development,both
mentally and physically.As I learnt from our friend,the popular
Chanchalda,a local resident without whose help we couldnot have
entered the place,let alone talk with the inmates, that at one point
of time random rapes and murders were too common here.But the
situation has improved since a lot of NGO's have roped in.Tomorrow's
Foundation is one of them.

TF is an NGO that works with slum and street children and aims at
delivering quality rather than quantity.They coach poor children
in collaboration with some other organizations and admit them in
formal schools at the end of their training sessions.The more
promising ones are then selected and TF takes special care to see
that the child reaches its full potential.Given that many of these
slum children are first-generation school-goers, TF has done a fair
job in that many of their students from these communities now teach
at their centres.The most successful of them is Anil who has scored
64.3 % in his HS examination this year.

As our friend showed us around, I spoke to many who were taken care
of by TF.There were students of all ages,mostly girls ,shy and
obedient.In many cases the mothers were most willing to send in
their children to schools whereas in some cases the families had
married off their teenage daughters or had sent them to work in some
obscure place . Again there were students who were obstinate and
refused to attend school irrespective of all coaxing and cajoling.I
met three who are supposed to appear for their higher secondary next
year.One of them wants to join the police force and one wants to
teach English.God willing,their dreams would come true.

I am not particularly good at recounting my experience and seek
desperate help to see me through. But here I shall make an
attempt ,risking failure though, to share a thought or two.As I
reached the end of the slum , I saw a thick wall separating a high-
rise building from the dilapidated shanty The dichotomy was
striking –two worlds on the two sides of a wall. I just wondered if
one person from this side broke into the other's territory,whose
fault would it actually be?
The Tollygung slums were the most depressive place I had ever
visited in my life.An environment so hopeless was sure to blunt
anybody's zeal and motivation.Just as I was pondering over this, a
whiff of fresh flowers made me look around.I wish I could capture
that one moment on reel.A group of women, both elderly and young had
gathered in a room to string flowers. Strewn all over the earthen
floor, the flowers had a smell so fresh and colours so bright that
for a moment they seemed not to fit in the otherwise grim

After the day's journey, as I walked back to TF's field office ,I
thought about the faces I had met .Our lives are so different.We
were born lucky,lucky enough to have an emotional and financial
security right from the start.And that has made us selfish.Besotted
with our daily woes we seldom face the fact that a problem far
greater than ours exists,The question of that of survival . I
agree that all our troubles and sufferings are very unique for
us.But for people like Rinki and Moumita,the struggle goes on as
they continue to live on the edge , undaunted and ready to face all
the challenge destiny has in store for them. Taking a close look at
their lives you might just pause for a moment and wonder if our
little cares are not figments of imagination.
We have won a lottery at birth,that's it. What would it have been
like if we were born in their place ?


Monday, June 26, 2006

Anjalidi is sitting in the middle with us at Mathurapur, June 3 2006
Today Anjalidi called me. And I was surprised. She is a member of the local administration i.e. the local panchayat in Mathurapur block 2. She is the head of the departments of education, culture and sports. It was a surprise because generally Anjalidi remains very busy throughout the year. When asked how she is, she replied " janoto di' ekhon khub kaj hochhe ekhane, tai niye ei kodin byasto chhilam..." - the pressure of work has increased and she was very busy. Still, she found out time to try to call me and other "dada"s i.e. Ritesh, Rahul, Debamitro several times, but couldn't get anyone except me due to the bad connection.

It feels good when a person from whom you never expected that he/she would remember you remembers you and calls you. I asked her about the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in her block. The district of South 24 Parganas falls under this act. According to it a person who registers with the local panchayat or the village 'samsad' (there are a few criteria for the registration process) will get 100 days' job at Rs 68 per day. And if the local panchayat or the village samsad isn't able to provide him with any job then he will get unemployment allowance. Currently the job cards are being distributed over there. But when we had gone to the visit we didn't hear of any such thing from the villagers and we had visited nearly 9 vilages. So who are getting these facilities? Is this again the same case like that of ration cards? Those who really need the money won't they get it? I don't know. But what I do know is that the government has alloted a big sum for this act and it would be pity and a failure of the goverment if the money doesn't reach the proper hands.

26 June 2006.

Friday, June 16, 2006

i had always thought that life could be lived in two ways,eiher u
live or u exist, but on 8th june i came across a new category. i met
few ppl who just struggle to survive.their lives are a constant battle
against social, economic and personal faliures. faliure.isnt it an
ambigious word.arent faliure and suffering synonymous with life.i am
yet to find a person who has no pain.i am sure we all feel our pains
and sufferings to be very special. in some ways we are never
satisfied.human nature is to complain,to never enjoy what one has and
to pine for the unattainable.
but now i will never complain.8th of june was my first experience
with extreme poverty, helplessness and hopelessness.i met ppl from
rashbehari slum, who are surviving each day, fighting not only with
various evil social forces but with internal problems, such as
helplessness, uselessness and feeling of abandonment.thier houses were
not homes but pigeon holes, with no window and proper sunlight.more
than five people were sharing a single room.the kids were half naked
and looked pathetic. though i was encouraging them to study yet
something within me was against what i was can i ask
half naked ,ill fed children to study?.i mean ,u need to fill ur
stomach then only u can study newton.these kids have lost hope of any
kind of goodness in life. most of them didnt want to study. only few
wished to continue and prosper. i have never been in such a dingy,
clustrophobic and pessimistic atmosphere.
yet there was something beautiful and enchanting about them. they
all managed to laugh and smile.they didnt grumble on their fates.
wherever abhik and i went we could find a welcoming smile.i was rather
confused with the role i was supposed to play.i didnt know how to
comfort them.words somehow felt short so i took recourse to the
langauage of love.i hugged them, held their hands, patted them , asked
them their names, their likes and dislikes.i spoke with them in broken
bangla and they responded lovingly.
to be very honest i hardly see any improvement in their livelihood
in near future.i am not confident how many will earn well or be able
to carve a niche for themselves in society.their future, if not dark
is dim. they are going to fall many times before they rise. the
process of improvement is very slow and discouraging.the only ray of
hope lies in giving them unconditional love and affection.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Here I am,This is ME with my Friday Blues

It was a Friday with all it’s conceivable beauty…very high temperature, even higher humidity.. Sujit suggested to Ramesh that such a Friday must not be wasted. They should utilize it accordingly to leverage AID’s efforts in Solid Waste Management and Alternative Energy Projects. Good Will prevailed. So Ramesh and Sujit headed towards WBREDA Solar/Alternative Energy Park to gather some ideas about how to proceed. But on reaching EBS Haldane Avenue, unfortunately they became enlightened of the fact that the Park remains closed only one day of the week. The day happened to be Friday. But none of the souls were discouraged.
The spirited duo were firm in there decision to capitalize on the time available. Hence they headed for the Famous Dhapa- Kolkata’s largest garbage dump (equally infamous for the pungent nausea it generates). The nausea didn’t qualify as a great deterrent for Sujit and Ramesh. Undaunted, they entered the Dhaapa. Their vehicle was a Cycle-Van, presumable used for ferrying garbage. Soon they reached a prohibited zone of the Dhaapa, where a public-private enterprise is supposed to have undertaken a futuristic solid waste management project, and also where unauthorized personnel (namely Sujit and Ramesh), were least expected. When they reached the office, they were greeted with all the official pleasantries. The immediate query of the concerned official was of course, how the duo managed to get an access to the facility. After getting the answer, the official affirmed earnestly, that without a valid authorization, no person can be given any information regarding the facility. He affirmed with further stress, that they should depart. Sujit and Ramesh, however managed to get the necessary the contact information, about procuring authorization, which is as follows:

Chief Municipal Engineer (SWM)
48, Market Street (Behind Nizam Hotel / Near Society Theatre)
Kolkata 700087
Time: 10 AM to 3 PM

The return Journey from Dhapa was somewhat uneventful. They used the single mode of transport available i.e. Cycle Van. Only, this time they had the company of a fellow co-passenger--a well-endowed Nanny Goat, who was visibly interested in Ramesh.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hi ppl,

Just wanted to share my journey with you all.
A journey that brought into my routine and mundane life a new spirit,….a new fire.
A journey which has just started,….
A journey which needs to be nurtured only through joint efforts and honest concerns
A journey by the name of AID

AID is an attempt to help, a sincere effort to care, a stand to do what is right rather than doing what is profitable and easy .To me it was about making a difference which I didn’t know ‘how’ , but now I have a platform n know ‘how’ .

Let me start from the day Satabdi called me up .She told me about AID and a similar effort going on somewhere else .She wanted to start it right here and asked me , if I am with her .After I came to know about the magnitude of AID , I was sceptical and tried to discourage her and I was not sure if v can justify the cause that we were planning to take up .But she was determined all thru .She had a kindling zeal which was clearly giving me the message that we have to do something in this regard.
However my sister Juhi was very enthusiastic abt the issue,….n was raring to go for it. Satabdi n Juhi were in it and so did Rahul .I knew they were apt in their thinking, but doubted the possibility of success in this regard .I am already in a job which is demanding and so is Satabdi .I was thinking if I can give the devotion , it requires .

Its strange how we ppl tend to neglect what is true. Once I opened my eyes towards the deprived ones,….i could see them everywhere,……bus-stops, railway platforms,
Traffic signals, tea-stalls, roads.
Finally I decided that I cant ignore them any longer and took up AID.

That weekend Satabdi and I went to ‘PARIVAR’. This is an organization supporting a similar cause .Bas for me ,the journey started .Then we spoke to Mr Sujit Sinha of Swanirbhar and Mr Somnath a volunteer from AID Boston. Speaking to them helped us get the real picture of this alarming situation .They also helped us immensely in framing our ideas and guiding us .
Mr Somnath gave us an overview of the facts, details and hurdles that we would face on our journey .From then onwards there was no looking back. We started our weekly meetings, gathered a few volunteers, visited a few NGO’s .I tried talking to my friends and got a very good response .Bas we are growing everyday and more people are joinin the cause of AID .Now I am pretty sure that its more about kindling and carrying the flame rather than thinking about ‘how’ ,and ppl would join in to share it .

The real aim of AID is to create awareness. Awareness amongst the two sections of the society.

First among the priviledged one…….i.e us….what can we as educated, free-thing and capable youth of today do towards and for the society…..
for the unfortunate and ignored people, especially the children.

Secondly, among the deprived n broken part of the society,… to how can they make their lives better, how can they dare to fulfill their dreams,….
how can they grow,…improve, learn, earn, get respected…..

Such an awareness needs time, trust, faith, sincere attempts,…from both the sections,…..especially from us…..who fall in the former category.

I know that today time is running short, life is fast, we expect value for money in every investment we make,….but I think that the returns I got from AID is beyond all such financial and business-centric profits and calculations.

AID have provided me a way of life, in which I can return something to the society,
It has imparted unto me a responsibility to help, to care, to spread the light of awareness, to call for volunteers…

Yes, AID needs volunteers, sincere people who can give their support , zeal, spirit and time to AID.
We need the youth, their helping hands, sincere efforts and interest to help the downtrodden ones, the suppressed ones.

I have felt it in me,… can every one else.

We often say that we want a peaceful life.
We wish to be at a place where there is
no noise, no trouble, no hard-work

But this does not actually mean peace.
To be in the midst of all chaos of life,
And still be calm in your heart-
Is what “peace ” is.

AID has blessed me with that peace.

- Rahul.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Our journey.

Where does it start from!

I can't pin-point a single day or a single incident which can be showed as the start of our journey. Rather it was a collection of incidents which triggered the birth of AID Kolkata. I remember a night when I was on a bus to my home. A child, may be 9/10 years old, was singing and dancing with some bihari and oria filmy songs and after the performance she was asking for money. This kind of scenes is very frequent in the roads of Kolkata. I was looking at the girl. Mal-nutritioned, wearing dirty, torn up frock, with dirty disheveled hair - her voice was broken - apparently from all the performances she has given through the whole day and some people were really enjoying her singing and dancing. They were asking for more of it. And when she started asking for money every one started avoiding her, shooing her.

That week I finished reading "Bitter Chocolate" by Pinky Virani. It is about child sexual abuse in India. I was really feeling so much helpless, I did not and could not do any thing for that girl and for others like her, who never get the taste of a normal childhood starting right from the time they can see and understand the world around. Returning home I called Rahul Chauhan and told him that I wanted to do something. He was not very sure whether we could do justice to the cause but his sister Juhita called me the moment she heard about this and told me " bhai jo bhi kahe, main aapke sath hu" - i guess from that day onwards our journey started.

I contacted Anirban, who is an active volunteer and volunteer coordinator of AID Delhi. And he helped us from the day i contacted him. Rahul and I visited Parivaar at Thakurpukur, we talked to Mr. Sujit Sinha of Swanirvar, we met Somnathda who is a volunteer of AID Boston, we talked to Mr. Ashis Roy of Tomorrow's Foundation.

I talked to some of my friends and juniors - Sourasis, Indraneel, Debadeep, Abhik, Sreyoshi, and all of them readily agreed to volunteer. Rahul talked to some of his frineds - Tanwi, Subhra, Rimi they also agreed to volunteer. Then Devi from AID India, Anirban, Somenda of AID Delhi, Somnathda also linked us with some new people - Ritesh, Debabrata, Sujit. And through them we met other people - Vishnu, Mithun. I hope this list goes on and on and we can be successful in completing one of our goals - Creating and Spreading Awareness.

- Satabdi.