Phir mein kahan jaon?”(Where else should I go?) was the terse reply of the elderly woman who was coming from the side of the railway track after defecating. “We do not have any toilets in our locality and we have to go to the railway track to relieve ourselves,” she added, replying to my obvious question on a February morning in 2010. We were on a polio immunisation drive in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh; the locality was Nazir Ki Madhaiyan.
According to the municipal records there are 60 slums in the city, each housing 500–800 people; most of them have migrated here from other States for livelihood.
Going around the place, we were moved by their pathetic living conditions. No toilets; no access to clean drinking water as the only hand pump drew yellowish water with a bad odour. The slums are dotted with garbage heaps emitting foul smell and the residents are mostly rag pickers — collecting and carrying large bags of recyclable waste material on their shoulders and heads to be handed over to the contractor who offer them paltry sums!
They do not have access to proper medical facilities nor are they able to provide basic education for their children. The children are made to work along with their parents most of the time. Facilities provided by the government such as routine immunisation and nutritional assistance do not reach them.
We do not have any toilets in our locality and we have to go to the railway track to relieve ourselves.
We chalked out projects focusing on sanitation, clean drinking water, basic and preventive healthcare, personal hygiene, vocational training and primary education for capacity building. Our plans for the city included constructing at least four toilets and installing two hand water pumps of 40 metre depth at each site. We planned monthly medical camps to take care of the basic healthcare; for primary education and vocational training we planned to employ trainers and teachers.
Since we did not have sufficient funds I discussed these projects with the foreign Rotarians who visited Moradabad to participate in polio immunisation drives on NIDs and SNIDs. PDG Albertine Perre Bulder of RC Vianen-Vreeswijk, RI District 1570, The Netherlands, and her team and Rotarians from D 9810, Australia, led by PDGs John Barnes and Bob Richards who visited Moradabad in 2012 and 2013 respectively, got interested in these projects. They presented this project in their Districts back home, and these were instantly approved. Subsequently, TRF sanctioned matching grants to the tune of $50,000 and $80,000 respectively, which helped in the construction of toilets and installation of hand water pumps at 35 sites. We are in the process of providing similar facilities in the remaining areas too.
We chalked out projects focusing on sanitation, clean drinking water, healthcare, vocational training and primary education for capacity building.
We organised 27 medical camps in association with a charitable Trust, SSG Foundation, benefiting more than 4,000 patients, and provided vocational training for 3 months to 75 youngsters in collaboration with the Moradabad Institute of Technology.
The Australian Rotarians donated a van to organise the medical camps in these slums. We also receive support from other visiting Rotarians from abroad. One such supporter is from D 1240, England under the leadership of Rtn Paul Harvey.
(The author is Past District Governor of RI District 3100)