Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Report by Prof. Sanjai Bhatt, Head, DSW, DU

(The Head of the Department of Social Work, Prof. Sanjai Bhatt, went to Saharsa to take a note of the field situation and the intervention activities undertaken by the Department of Social Work. He writes in his own words about his four-day visit to the flood affected area in Bihar.)

On call from the field, I could not resist myself and made an emergent visit to Saharsa from 24-27 September 2008. Dr. Manoj K Jha, Director, Field Work also joined me to facilitate the whole process. Since the purpose of the visit was to apprise myself with ground realities of the field and our intervention programmes, I focused my trip on base camp management, field oriented activities, consolidation of our efforts and expanding out networks and alliances.

About 6-7 lakh people were found living in the temporary hutments on the either side of the Kataiya to Murliganj embankment. It is unfortunate to state that the state intervention is completely missing and people are deprived of even basic amenities like drinking water, food and sanitation. Some of the displaced villagers are going back to their villages to fetch drinking water from hand pumps (which are also contaminated) whereas others are using canal water for drinking and other domestic purposes. The State-organised Mega Camps do provide food to villagers but these camps are distantly located and most of the affected people are not able to reach these camps. Further the food availability is never assured and had no fixed time.

Our intervention ‘Hamari Paathshala’ (Our School) is functioning very well. It attracts around 175-200 children per day. Using innovative techniques our volunteers are providing critical health related messages like not to use canal for bathing or drinking purposes. The fundamental purpose to start this paathshala is to engage the children so that they can come out of the trauma caused by the distress and the disaster. Looking at the response and participation of children as well as the villagers, I believe we have achieved the same.

UDAI’s Health Volunteers are the only one catering to the needs of displaced persons through ‘Humara Asptaal’ (Our Hospital). We have got two doctors (Dr. Arvind K Rai and Dr. Rajesh) through ‘Doctors for You’ organisation. Our doctors are providing treatment to more than 600 patients per day.Earlier AIIMS doctors, Dr. Saket and Dr. Harsh were working here for more than 20 days and have gone back for some official formalities. They will join us back in some time. In addition to this our mobile medical unit (MMU) is responding need based calls from distant villages.

In my presence, I saw our volunteers intervening to save a damaged bridge which was likely to collapse due to heavy traffic. The bridge known as Pucca Pul was the only connection between Madhepura and Muraliganj and hence it was overloaded and jammed. Our volunteers intervened at the right time to control and regulate the traffic thereby saving another mishap to happen. Till the time Mr Dharmendra Prasad, SDO, Madhepura reached and took charge our volunteers played a very significant role by acting aptly according to the need of the situation.

Our team also met Mr. Chandrama Prasad Singh, DDC, Saharasa and Dr. Azad Hind Prasad who agreed to give us a vehicle to make our mobile health intervention in Pattarghat and Sonbarsa. We also had a dialogue with local press and other social activists. Mr. Ajay Singh, senior correspondent of Hindustan Times joined me during my visit to various places and appreciated our efforts. He said “Delhi University is the first university who came forward with a volunteerism spirit of its own kind. We appreciate the efforts of Vice Chancellor, Pro Vice Chancellor, Registrar and other university authority in this regard.”

I would also like to put it on record the help and support extended by Mr Sanjay Jha, Mr Chandan and Mr Santosh to our team. Without their support it would have been really a difficult task for us. Finally, I would like to congratulate all the students who are working day and night to support this programme. Their efforts are greatly been acknowledged in the field by everyone.

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