GUWAHATI, June 1 � Changes are ushered in through the will of the public and this has been proved again by the people living in a poverty pocket. Community participation has transformed Shivanagar, a poverty pocket adjacent to the Asom Jatiya Vidyalaya, Noonmati, from a picture of squalor to that of cleanliness and hygiene.
Two years ago, Shivanagar was the typical picture of filth and ugliness that is common to all the slum areas and poverty pockets in the capital city. It was lacking in all basic amenities like access to potable water and sanitation facilities. Most of the residents defecated in the open drain running through the middle of the locality without bothering about the health hazards that such a habit created for the locality.
But Shivanagar, dotted with huts of various sizes, today has a different saga � a major portion of the drain has been covered, the residents have stopped open defecation and health hazards have come down. With the intervention of the Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection a couple of years back, the locality gradually witnessed positive changes.
�Members of the Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection encouraged us to come together and work for keeping the area clean,� said Ranjit Pasman, president of the Shivanagar Milan Committee, adding that under the aegis of the Society, the area availed a few tubewells and four bathroom and latrine sets.
The Society has also started work on covering the open drain with the cooperation of the residents. Almost 100 feet out of the 120-ft stretch of the drain has been covered so far. The community here, which is a mixed population of indigenous, religious and linguistic minorities, keeps an eye on the drain and cleans it whenever it becomes necessary. With less dependence on government intervention to improve their lot, the residents now are more confident.
�We have faith in our power. If we unite, we can bring in positive changes,� said Julie Hazarika, a college-going student. She expressed her happiness that her neighbours have realised the importance of keeping the locality clean.
Livelihood sources for the residents, however, are very restricted. Most males work as daily wage earners, some work as carpenters, masons or mechanics, while a few are into vending of vegetables. Many of the women belonging to linguistic and religious minority work as domestic helps.
�Our efforts have yielded results. The residents have taken up the task of maintaining hygiene. But there is much more to be done,� said Dwijen Saharia, secretary of the Society. He said that the open drain that carried the industrial and human waste had caused a lot of inconvenience for the residents. �A big step towards a change was taken when the residents cooperated to keep the drain clean.�
Problems crop up very frequently for the residents here. They have to sweat it out every day to keep their home fires burning. Though the external ambience has changed, consumption of country liquor by a section of residents has been an irritant. But like Julie, most of the residents are optimistic that where there is a will, there is a way.