GUWAHATI, March 1 � The first sanitary latrine in Guwahati was constructed in 1938 by Tarun Chandra Barooah, nephew of Deshahitoishi Manik Chandra Barooah, at his residence Fatick Kutir at Barowari. Fatick Kutir was a beautiful Assam-type building and on its sprawling campus today there stand three RCC multi-storey apartments. The site is bang opposite the Uzanbazar Barowari Naamghar.
It perhaps needs no mention that Manik Chandra Barooah towards the end of the 19th century, led the movement to set up the Cotton College. Sanitary latrines were made compulsory by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) in the mid-1970s. It also discontinued with its manual scavenging services for collection of night soil from the kutcha latrines around that time. But even after lapse of around 42 years of being elevated to a city, Guwahati still lacks a sewer treatment system, said noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika, while talking to this correspondent.
The kutcha latrines came into being in Guwahati around 1850. The British rulers banned open defacation, which was prevalent in Guwahati then, and imposed fines on that practice of defacation. This made the Guwahatians go for constructing kutcha latrines in their backyards and the night soil accumulated in those latrines were removed by the authorities by engaging scavengers brought from outside the State. Guwahati got its first municipal board in 1853.
The scavengers brought from outside the State, were housed in colonies and the first colony to house them was set up in Chenikuthi area on Bail Road, which is now known as Manik Chandra (MC) Road. This colony was shifted to Marashali area just by the side of the present-day Nehru Stadium in the early 1920s. On the original plot of the colony at Chenikuthi, now the Kamrup Academy Higher Secondary School, Chenikuthi Primary School and some private residences are located. A part of this land was procured by noted poet �Pratimar Khanikar� Chandra Kumar Agarwalla at an auction. He then sold the land to some individuals for construction of their individual residences.
Till the 1960s, around 50 per cent of Guwahatians did not have sanitary latrines. It needs mention here that the third invasion by the Burmese (Myanmar) Army left Guwahati�s civic life in tatters. Most of the officials serving under the Barphukan, then fled Guwahati to North Guwahati and Upper Assam and those who remained in Guwahati were devoid of any hygienic or civic sense. They used to drink the dirty waters of the tanks and used to defacate in the open, Hazarika said.
After the annexation of Assam by the British, those who had fled Guwahati gradually started returning to this town and together with them some new people from outside the State also started migrating to this place.
The British rulers then teamed up with the elite of the town to develop it into a modern town. As a first step towards that end, they started removing the jungles in the plains of the town and banned open defacation between 1850 and 1860. However, the common Guwahatians opposed this ban, leading to imposition of fine by the British rulers on the practice of open defacation, said the noted writer.