Ahmad Raja is an independent professional at 23 years. Graduate in Medical Laboratory Technology, he works in the Safdarjung research lab. Ahmad feels he is lucky to have had his education which enabled him to work and earn for his family. He has similar dreams for hundreds of children living in the NTPC Subhash camp. And to realize this dream, Ahmad attached himself to the youth group in his camp a couple of years ago.
There were several issues in Subhash camp like health, safety, education, for which we didn’t have a proper platform. Facilitated by CFAR, we thought of creating a youth group. When locals come together to raise their collective concerns, it has a wider impact than having someone from outside the community fighting for local issues. Every human being has potential, you just need someone to recognize it and encourage them to grow. We learnt this and that’s what we are trying to achieve through our youth group, encourage people to come forward and deal with their own problems.
The youth group worked closely with the community on several issues. Some of these were health, sanitation, CTC, water, education and so on. Encouraged by the positive response from the community, Ahmad and his group decided to continue with their efforts on bringing about a change in their cluster.
We got a lot of positive response from the community. We ran awareness campaigns on health, education, fundamental issues like water, electricity, ration etc. We conducted meetings outside people’s houses across all lanes in the camp. And we connected people with the respective responsible authority through direct conversations between them.
On the issue of health
People used to defecate in the open. We told them of the ill effects on one’s health of defecating in the open. Authorities don’t visit a particular area without a reason. So we organized an event around sanitation and health where we invited officials. We showed them the condition of the CTC and got people to talk to them directly about the problems related to the toilets. The authorities then decided to reconstruct the CTC and even build an additional new CTC within six years. We managed to get the CTC repaired and reconstructed. Within one month, the CTC will be ready to use.
On the issue of education
Children used to play around and not attend their school. Parents were also careless about their attendance in schools. We educated the parents, made them aware of how if their children go to school regularly, they can grow up to become the Prime Minister or the President of this country. How they will become responsible and self sufficient citizens of this country. Parents understood. There was a noticeable change. Now they are strict about sending their children to school.
On the issue of safety around the CTC
About a year and a half ago, women were scared of using the CTC, they didn’t feel safe, there was a constant fear of being harassed by anti social elements. We worked with the community on this issue and also followed up the matter with the Police. Now the situation is better. Women are no longer scared of using the CTC now. We spoke to the alcoholics who used to harass women outside the CTC. We educated them on the ill effects of alcohol on human body. Some listened to us and altered their behavior and the ones who didn’t listen to us, were arrested by the police and fined on several occasions. Now the situation is much better.
On the issue of irregular water supply
Many lanes didn’t have regular water supply. We got all residents facing water problem to write applications to the concerned department. As a result, we now have a pipeline which supplies water for daily chores. Still there are some lanes which don’t get water, we have been following up on their case with Delhi Jal Board.
Ahmad admits that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in the area of sanitation in the camp. He feels apart from following up the problems with the authorities, a whole mental change also has to be brought about across generations for actual changes to reflect on the ground.
We still have to work a lot on the issue of sanitation. Nobody pays attention to the drains in the lanes or to the garbage that keeps lying around. Unless the residents get support from MCD, they won’t be able to bring a change into effect. Residents used to dump garbage in the open outside their houses, but then we made them aware, asked them to throw garbage in the MCD truck, but still we don’t have enough support from MCD. They are not regular in cleaning or collecting garbage. We need to work harder on this issue. We are thinking of uniting all residents and taking them together to the MCD office to convey the problem and ask for a solution.
We have been working with the youth of the community but I feel there is a need for the older generation to participate more actively in our meetings. 70 per cent problems arise from a certain mental make-up of the elders in the community, which needs to be changed. Youth alone can’t bring a change, the older generation has to listen and adopt the change that we teach. We will conduct meetings with the parents of all youth, so that they become active participants in this movement for change.
As a result of his regular follow ups, Ahmad’s potential was recognized by the local authorities who appointed him President to represent the community issues of NTPC Subhash Camp.
I used to go to the MLA’s office regularly to follow up on issues facing Subhash camp. The MLA recognized my initiative for the community and made me the President from his party (AAP) to represent Subhash Camp. It is more effective if a local resident, who understands the community’s problems, takes them forward with the officials. Outsiders can’t understand the complications of issues facing the community.
Ahmad is hopeful of a better tomorrow for his camp. He feels if the authorities are pursued collectively and regularly, matters can be resolved. But change, he feels, has to come from within. He feels people have to actively engage with each other in order for the change to come about.
In the next few years, I want Subhash camp to be known as a model settlement and not a cluster full of thieves and drug addicts. We will work towards this with as many community residents as we can. We will continue with our efforts with or without any external support. I want to request the community residents to give us their full support. Whatever meetings or events we organize, they should all attend these so that we can understand their problems and contact the local authorities and start a dialogue towards resolutions of all the issues.
By Shruti Pushkarna