DIR in India

The Janta Colony Project, Chandigarh [ photo tour ]


In a crowded slum where 8996 people live in 2,047 tiny homes, located just outside Chandigarh, capital of the Punjab, DIR has a project being implemented by the residents.  This "bustee" is called Janta Colony.









News from Chandigarh, June 2007

Authors: Leonie de Wit & Marat Yu

(Read previous updates: April 2007, January 2007, October 2006, June 2006 ]

Governor Rodrigues’ visit to DIR-India

On 12th April General S.F. Rodrigues, who is the Governor of Punjab and Administrator of Chandigarh, visited the DIR-I office in Janta Colony, accompanied by his wife Mrs. Rodrigues. Dr. Amrit Bolaria (DIR-I Trustee), Mr. Dinesh Kumar (Chief Editor of the Pioneer), the District Commissioner of Mohali I.B.S. Grewal and the Senior staff from Governor’s office were present too. This was a very big happening and important visit, as there were a lot of press and security officers. The way from the entrance of the bustee to the office was covered by officials. Journalists from six newspapers were present.

Dr. Frederick, along with Dr. Asha and Aparna, gave demonstrations of academic reviews in which our HPs were able to show off all the knowledge they had learned in DIR classes. While seeing the eagerness and enthusiasm of the HPs, Governor Rodrigues had a good view of the hard work of the HPs. He asked Dr. Frederick and Dr. Amrit Bolaria about all the details of the project, with the intention to implement it in all villages in and around Chandigarh. Mrs. Rodrigues had a pleasant interaction with the HPs. Then, Maya’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Garung were honoured for offering their house and hospitality in the time DIR-I didn’t have a proper office in the bustee. After the visit the senior staff together with the HPs shared and discussed their thoughts about the visit. The HPs were very nervous in the beginning, but they all agreed it went well. The senior staff aired their hopes for the future; this visit must have a positive continuing process! The attention in the newspapers on the 13th April was a good start; 6 articles were written of all the present papers; Times of India, Indian Express, The Tribune, The Pioneer, Hindustian Times and Ajit.

Other Visitors to DIR-I

Three guests from Nabha Foundation visited our office and the bustee on 10th April. Funded by overseas Maharaja, the Foundation is working on various fronts in health, education and heritage conservation in Nabha, Punjab, and is seeking strategic partnerships with local NGOs to promote the well-being in the community. The Foundation regards us as a possible partner after coming across our extensive media coverage and arranged a field visit to see our works on the ground. The visitors are impressed and cooperation opportunities will be sought in the future. In the mean time, they have helped us to put up notices for volunteers in the Golf Club and other venues in Chandigarh.

Mr. Jagran from Dell Computer visited our bustee on 20th April. Impressed by the fast uptake by our HPs within a short duration of training, he proposed that we could send some of the local residents to undergo computer training with Dell and to eventually earn a decent salary in their booming industry. We welcomed that as a possibility of one of our income generation initiatives.

Statistical Improvements

At the end of March the senior staff reviewed all statistics collected by the HPs since the project began, because some inconsistencies were obvious in the March report. The HPs, together with Senior HPs Rajbir and Rajinder Singh, sat together to correct their statistics. Most discrepancies occurred in the data of the children weighed. Corrections of the growth charts and retraining the HPs about how to fill in these charts also took place this month.

In addition to the mistakes, the senior staff improved the observation form and enlarged the observation schedule, to ensure that the HPs are checked more regularly and more accurately. From now on the HPs have to make a monthly plan on the first day of each month and the Senior Health Promoters check the daily activities and statistics of the HPs in detail.

School Project

At the end of March Leonie started a school project in Janta Colony. First the HPs collected the school going status of children from 5 ages till 15 years old. The data contained the age and sex of the child and in which of the five categories the child belongs (‘going to government school’; ‘going to private school’; ‘never went to school’; ‘dropout’ (a child who enrolled into school once, but doesn’t go anymore) or ‘exception’, like illness or handicap). Then, a second detailed form was filled in for those children who fall into the categories ‘never went to school’, ‘dropout’ or ‘exception’. From the 1461 reported children in the age category 5-15 years old 69 children (4.7%) never went to school and 57 of the children (3.9%) were dropouts. Leonie set up a schedule to visit each family involved.

Sikhya School

We have identified 70 bright children in the bustee whom we would like to get scholarships in Chandigarh’s best schools. Sikhya school offered to accommodate 40 of these children. A tour to the school was arranged on 18th April to convince the parents to send their children to this school and majority of them are very pleased with the school environment and facilities. As the school caters exclusively to underprivileged children, parents do not need to pay for tuition or other expenses. The only hurdle is the price of transportation. As Janta Colony is located far away from the school, parents need to send their children by autorickshaw which will cost them about Rs.300 a month for each child. To kick-off, we are thinking of sponsoring the full cost of transportation in the first month, provided that the child achieves 100% attendance. In the future, DIR-I will subsidize the transportation cost (as such we need to find extra funding) and parents would need to shoulder the residue.

Research by GMCH Medical Students

Five medical students from Government Medical College & Hospital (GCMH) started research projects this month. Jaskaran and Aakash visited the bustee along with a lab technician and examined boys under 18 years for their project on “Anaemia in Adolescent Males in Urban Slum”. Those who are suspected to be anaemic will have their blood samples analysed at GMCH. They also proposed to give nutritional advice to the anaemic children and provide them with iron supplements. While another pair (Supreet and Neha) are working on a project entitled “Prevalence of Vitamin A Deficiency in Children under Five in Urban Slum”, Tribhar Goel has started his research on “Natural History of Parasitic Infection in Children under Five in Urban Slum” concurrently. 

Progress on Project Expansions

The preparation to implement the same project as in Janta Colony in other regions has started. DIR-I wants to expand to Mauli Jagran, a community next to Panchkula, Chandigarh, belonging to Union Territory, Saketri in Haryana and Muktsar/Badal in Punjab.

Mauli Jagran contains 3285 households. The project will be covered by 16 units (16 HPs; each takes care of app. 200 households). Saketri has a population of app. 5,000 people and Muktsar/Badal is a very large area with a 320,000 population. In Muktsar alone there will be a programme which is 28 times the size of our present project. In it, 408 local people would be employed and the average cost of providing health care services for one person for one year would be Rs.110 or $2.5. The budget for Muktsar is $2,130,000 for 30 months.

Senior Staff Progress Meeting

Striving to improve communications and performance as a whole, our senior staff started to have weekly progress meetings every Wednesday in the bustee office. The meeting provides a platform to table and discuss operational issues such that they will be timely sorted out. To further develop leadership skills, senior staff take turn to chair the meetings and take minutes.

Staff Movement

Sunita, one of our HPs, has left DIR-I on 5th April for her marriage in Bihar. We wish her a happy married life. Rajinder Kaur, who first helped Maya in her area, took Sunita’s area under her wings. Three new HPs, Sangeeta, Sushma and Meena, joined DIR-I on 1st, 17th and 30th April respectively.

Achievements of Objectives

We periodically give academic examinations to our Field Staff reveal how well we and our students are learning. In this month’s comprehensive test on medical and nutritional knowledge, the average score achieved by the HPs was 80.3. This score is generally satisfying and the performance has indicated the areas of weaknesses which we can address in teaching. The new HPs are taught by Rajbir every day in order to catch up with the rest of the group and they are learning very fast. 

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