40 year old Kaushalya has lived in the Jain Mandir cluster, Delhi for the past three decades. Her husband works for a travel agency and both her daughters are working. Like every mother, Kaushalya has dreams for her daughters and she thinks that her daughters are capable of realizing them. She is happy in her little home but is affected by the community’s collective problems.

Kaushalya decided to be part of the women’s group in Jain Mandir to bring about a change in her cluster. She feels that it is important for women to mobilize other women for collective concerns.

Women have to come together to educate others in the community. A lot of us associated with the committee and we have seen the changes. We didn’t know how to talk earlier but we have learned to voice our issues. We didn’t use to get time from daily household chores earlier but now we make an effort to take time out for the meetings. People have to associate with these meetings to step forward. We can put forth our issues with the authorities with the help of these meetings and our committee.

Kaushalya has seen the changes that the committee has helped bring about in the cluster. She acknowledges the work done by authorities when they were pursued collectively.

Our toilets were so bad but now there is a lot of improvement. We filed an application after getting it duly signed by all women in the committee. All the seats were broken, there were no doors, walls were broken. All this was repaired. Whitewash was done. There was no water, so water tanks were installed in various places. I thank the authorities for all this. This was possible only when we got together to complain.

Kaushalya has a long list of pending issues that she would like to take forward with the committee but she is also aware of irresponsible behavior of certain residents towards the facilities provided. She urges them to take up good practices of health and hygiene.  

We should get all facilities but if we don’t take care of these facilities then it is our own fault. We cannot blame anyone else. We have to teach the others, make them aware of good practices of hygiene. Take the garbage in the dustbins and dump it in the collection van. Don’t throw garbage outside, keep cleanliness in your households. Keep the drains clean. When we follow good practices of hygiene, we can tell the others as well.

I want to see many changes in my cluster. Sewer needs to be repaired. We should have a bigger CTC here. There should be a separate toilet for the kids. There are only three toilet seats for kids so they defecate in the open.

Kaushalya is ready to work with other women as one community to bring about the changes she feels necessary for her family to live in a clean environment.

We have to keep our cluster clean. We can train other women to not dirty their surroundings. We can even get together to scold the alcoholics so they stop creating nuisance for all of us here. We have to unite the entire community to bring about a change. One person has no impact but the entire community has a huge impact if they all decide to stand together.

By Shruti Pushkarna



27 year old Tahir is a carpenter by profession. His father is a tailor and brother, a painter. But Tahir’s work is not limited to carpentry. He feels for his cluster and the surrounding areas and he is keen to bring about a change.

Tahir and his friends got together to form a Jain Mandir Sudhar Samiti to tackle with problems faced by the community.

One day all of us friends were sitting and we thought to ourselves that the park is so dirty and that we should do something about it. If our relatives or friends from outside come to our cluster, they will carry such a bad impression.

His friends decided to form a committee and they collected a sum of 100 Rs. from all members to execute the required changes.

We managed to bring together 45 boys who gave 100 rs from their pocket to contribute to this drive. We swept the park and picked up the garbage. We also bought and planted many plants here so the park looks pretty. We didn’t seek any government help, but did this on our own.

But Tahir and his friends did not have full control on the community members who started using the park for their personal purposes and leaving it dirty once again.

A lot of boys in the committee lost interest because people started dirtying the park again, using it for their personal use. We are not able to do as much now as the community doesn’t cooperate. People are selfish, they don’t realize that we have to live as a community together.

Tahir has also been involved in organizing other public events in the community.

We organized a Ram lila here. We also distributed sherbet on muharram.

He feels, people show interest only in those activities that concern them and turn their back towards any collective concerns.

Tahir and his committee members of the Sudhar Samiti also tried to stop water wastage in the cluster.

We installed nuts on people’s water tanks to stop water wastage but people threw those away.

He feels strict fines have to be imposed on defaulters to bring about a change of any kind. He also feels that a committee has to be in place and for any change to come about, people have to give their time to it.

People who are defaulters should be heavily fined. Even rich people have to buy water to use and here these people don’t realize the importance of free water being given by the government. I’m not very educated. We need someone who is better educated to head a committee that raises issues of the cluster as a collective. But the committee can only be successful if people give time to it. Otherwise like our committee which fell from 45 to 20 members, this committee will also be ineffective.

Tahir is willing to come forward and take the next steps towards change but he realizes his limitations.

We no longer have money to put in from our own pockets. Everyone has to contribute to it and not just a handful of people.

Tahir has a few suggestions for the government authorities. On the issue of alcoholism, drug abuse and eve teasing he urges the government to install lights in the dark corners of the cluster. He also wants the government authorities to utilize the plot behind the CTC in Jain Mandir-Delhi.

If there are big flood lights, the defaulters will be scared of doing anything. They will think twice about it. They should make a baarat ghar or a small dharamshala on the empty plot so that people stop throwing garbage in that open space.

But above everything, Tahir feels that the community has to become aware of its own issues, and willing to take steps in the right direction. Laziness and selfishness, he feels, add to the existing problem and a mental change has to come first for actual change to be seen in the cluster.

By Shruti Pushkarna


Waziran’s Narrative

Waziran.JPG60 year old Waziran has lived in Shastri Mohalla, Delhi for the past forty years. Her husband remarried and moved out, leaving her alone to take care of her two sons. She now lives with one of her sons and six grandchildren. She hopes that her grandchildren will one day grow up to become good citizens, probably working in respectable positions, like a police officer or even a bureaucrat.

Four decades in this cluster make her well verse with all the issues facing the community. A couple of years ago she had a terrible accident which left her crippled. A steel rod in one leg and a walking stick in hand, she walks around Shastri Mohalla actively pursuing the day to day issues facing the community. She wants to see the changes she hopes for in her lifetime. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her but she is sure of the fact that if everyone works towards making it better, it will be better.

Talking about the problems facing the cluster, she mentions the frequent tussle between the residents and the MCD workers on cleaning drains. She sees no point in fighting over the issue, instead she has worked out her own solution.

I started removing the cover from the drains so that the drains could be cleaned properly. If everyone starts doing the same, the situation can improve. I don’t depend on the department worker for this, I tell everyone to remove their covers/lids on their own.

Garbage dumping is another big problem faced by Shastri Mohalla residents. Waziran urges everyone to use a dustbin in their houses.

We can keep dustbins outside our doors in which we can store all garbage. When the garbage collection van comes, we can all dump the garbage in the van.

Her continuous association with the committee has taught her a few things. She can differentiate between the different government departments and their responsibilities. She acknowledges the sorry state of drains in the cluster but understands that the right department has to be approached for the problem.

The drains need to be repaired. We understand that this is not the MCD’s job but the department responsible should repair it. Once they repair it and make it pucca, we can clean and maintain it on our own. Even now, I clean it on my own, I don’t wait for them to come and clean it. Before taking a bath, I clean the drain. Everyone has to be responsible for their own surroundings. The department workers can come and clean it occasionally.

With six children and four adults in crammed two small rooms, Waziran has her own battles to fight. But she is also sensitive to the community’s troubles. She realizes that not everyone in the community can afford to spend money on their children’s weddings. She too has three granddaughters to be married off one day. Looking at the park adjoining the cluster, she wants the concerned authority to convert it into a community centre, to be used as a wedding hall by residents.

The park should be partly converted into a baaraat ghar. Otherwise people drink alcohol here and create nuisance for us. Residents any way cannot afford to spend a lot of money on weddings, this will help them.

Despite all her problems, Waziran is not gloomy about the future. She looks at the glass half full rather than half empty. She describes how things have changed over the course of time.

Earlier garbage used to be sitting around, we were not aware of its harmful effects. We used to hesitate asking the department worker to clean it, thinking that he in a higher position than us. Now there is a change. Now we don’t hesitate in reminding the department worker of his duty. We also consciously clean our houses and adjoining areas. We are better informed now. We know that we should not keep any kind of waste in the house. We know that we have to keep the water tank clean and always keep it covered. If we keep our surroundings clean, we can prevent diseases like dengue and malaria.

She understands the important role being played by community meetings in bringing about this change.

We know it’s important to attend meetings because we gather useful information in the meetings. I’m part of the Mahila Samiti as well and attend all meetings. We should all definitely go for these meetings as many issues can be resolved in these meetings.

Waziran is sure of the fact that the community can get its issues resolved. She feels that the change that has come about with better awareness will help the likes of her to take the next steps.

We’ve seen the corporation office. Other offices and authority that we’ve seen, we can approach them on our own. We will get our issues resolved.

By Shruti Pushkarna

Reena from NTPC Subhash Camp-Delhi

Her lane is popularly called Reena’s lane by the residents of NTPC Subhash Camp. She embodies hope for so many residents in her lane, hope of a better life in the settlement. 29 year old Reena is an active member of the women’s group at NTPC Subhash camp. She was among the four women at the time of the group’s inception, who came together to collectively voice their concerns to the higher-ups in the bureaucratic hierarchy. Today there are 24 of them, thanks to the efforts of Reena and the others like her.

Completely fed up by the unlivable conditions around her, Reena realized that the community had to join hands in order to fix their problems. Many NGOs visited their settlement, making residents aware of the ill effects of unhygienic living conditions but no one offered any permanent solutions. That’s when the community’s women decided to get together and take matters in their hands. The biggest problem facing them was an open drain that ran through the settlement, always overflowing with garbage and dirty water.

Earlier the drain was open and marshy. When we learnt about the ill effects of the open drain on our health, we approached the authorities. We submitted written applications along with photos to the MCD office in early November 2013. We repeatedly chased the authorities requesting them to provide a permanent solution to our problem. A child had fallen into the drain and died during this time so the authorities were under pressure to get the drain covered as soon as they could. A tender was finally passed and the drain was cleaned and covered by December 29, 2013.

29 dec 2013 naala covered, nov 2013 gave application nov 2013 first week djb application- valve open in ten dayselection time so work done fast

The same drain is again calling for attention and the residents are taking the next steps hoping they can once again resolve this issue.

 Now the drain is full and the day we receive rains, the drain will overflow and dirt will enter our homes. We will again have to submit an application, requesting the authorities to put a sewer in the drain, or send a truck to suck the water out of the drain with a pipe.

Through her continued interaction with authorities, Reena learnt that there is a department in place for every issue and a written complaint can be registered with the concerned department. She along with her women’s group members decided to address each issue at a time and take it up with the respective department officials. Water or the lack of it was another problem facing the residents of Subhash camp.

Earlier there was no water at all, now at least there is a slow pressure of water. We had submitted an application for this too, in the first week of November 2013. Earlier on we used to approach the authorities with our complaints verbally. But then we learnt the importance of submitting requests in written form so that the authorities can’t ignore them. Everything written goes on record so it is more effective. There is a receipt for every written application we submit, so the authorities can’t ignore us. We submitted a written complaint for water shortage. Following that, within ten days, the Junior Engineer came himself to open the valve for water supply in our lane. But now the water pressure has gone down and also there isn’t enough drinking water. For this, we want to contact the authority again. A few weeks ago, we have given a letter to DJB to either repair this connection or to give us a new connection for drinking water.

Reena has five children. She wants to raise them in a clean environment and provide them with proper education so they grow up to become responsible citizens. But she understands that this is an uphill task given her unclean surroundings and ill habits of residents around her in the camp. Through her group, she is trying to create awareness among people on the importance of sanitation and good hygiene. Reena has seen the benefits of working collectively with women and pressurizing the authorities into taking action. So she urges fellow residents to work together as a close knit group in order to resolve all issues facing the community. Reena is hopeful that if more and more people get together, they can bring about a noticeable change in the living conditions at NTPC Subhash camp.

I want everyone to keep our colony clean. If we don’t adopt good practices of sanitation, our children will keep falling sick. I have taught my children how to properly wash their hands before every meal and after using the toilet. Everyone should do the same. As for voicing our concerns, it is important to go collectively so that the authorities take us seriously and feel pressurized to take action. Earlier there was no unity. We all used to hesitate talking to anyone. Everyone was simply confined to their respective homes. But then we learnt that we should not be scared of voicing our concerns. Now we don’t hesitate. We submit a written complaint on every issue and don’t just complain verbally. We should not visit the local authorities’ office alone, we should instead go there as a group, as one colleReena_3ctive community. We started with a committee of four people, then looking at the changes being brought in due to collective effort, more people started joining in. Now we are 24 people who meet every week. We discuss all local issues and decide on the course of action to be taken. We have learnt about the different departments responsible for different issues, we have seen their offices. Now we can approach them when the need arises. Earlier we were scared of the police, now we can talk to them without any fear. We feel more confident now. We don’t let the police officials take bribe from us, when we face them collectively, they don’t harass us for bribes. We will try and connect more people with us, from every lane, in order to bring a change on the ground regarding all the issues facing Subhash Camp.

By Shruti Pushkarna

CFAR and Community Mobilization for Water and Sanitation in Uttor Kumrokhali and Stadium Para in West Bengal

Recently I visited the above two sites to see for myself the work being done by a small team of my colleagues over the last 18 months or so.

The work involved mobilizing individuals belonging to marginalised community, creating awareness about hygiene, clean water and sanitation, training them to advocate for the same with government officials and sustain this through building leadership within the community creating community ownership.

Meeting the community has always been a energising experience and this was no different. I met members of two communities, one for women called ‘Alor Disha’ and the other that of school children called ‘Taru Sangho’

The leadership quality shown both by the women community and that of the school children were of very high order. The work done also worked as motivation for other wards seeking to form their own and interact with the government officials.

I am quite sure that over time this will spread to larger geographies and bring the much needed change in the lives of our people.

Here are some interviews and photographs

By Dwipal Kumar Bose, Mentor and Adviser; Social and Rural Enterprises

Part 1- School students speaking on how they worked together to bring about changes on sanitation

Part 2-A student (member of Tarun Sango community) explaining how she worked to promote sanitation and hygiene practices among others

Part 3 – Community embers playing a small skit (nukkad natak) on sanitary napkin

Part 4 – Student of Class -10 explaining how she mobilised other students on sanitation changes

Part 5