Dawki turns unruly and ugly


This letter intends to draw the attention of the Government to the plight of commuters on the Dawki Road due to the growing instances of traffic jams. We are aware that the number of tourists visiting Dawki is on the rise, but one cannot tolerate the behaviour of the boatmen in the Umsyiem stretch of road that stops tourist vehicles and ask them to park their vehicles in this narrow stretch, thereby leading to massive traffic jams. It stretches one’s tolerance to the ultimate limit when a difficult situation is aggravated due to the irresponsible behaviour of a few individuals. These boatmen who are hunting for tourists on this busy road, to take them for boating, show an appalling disregard for any kind of traffic laws. Buses stop here and there, cars come and go in a haphazard manner. The chaos is unimaginable. Drivers get into ugly arguments in the middle of the road and cause havoc for the daily commuter. Secondly, there seems to be no time limit for coal and lime stone trucks as they are plying 24 hours on this narrow highway. Truck drivers are presumably above the law with the police personnel seemingly on their side. Moreover, the Dawki suspension bridge which we assume has crossed its life span is bearing the brunt of the onslaught from the hundreds of trucks passing through it day in and day out. When will the Government and District Administration wake up? Or will the Government  react only when a tragedy happens?

Yours etc

Manuel Carey Lymba

Shillong – 8

Poor state of school infrastructure

Schools are supposed to be the temples of learning, but the average primary educational institution in the state is likely to be a dingy, dilapidated place without access to electricity, toilets and with too few teachers. True, just having great school infrastructure is not sufficient to improve learning outcomes, but it is certainly a necessary condition. According  to the District Information System for Education (DISE) data,  almost all the  north-eastern  states are  falling  into  the  lower  categories  as  far  as  availability  of  upper  primary  schools  with  water facility  are concerned.   Only  57%  government  schools  and  66%  private  unaided  schools  in  Meghalaya  have such  facilities. The state has 56% private unaided schools that are functioning without any girls’ toilet. Provisioning for boys’ toilet facility has been much better as compared to girls’ toilet at every level and irrespective of the management of schools. It is also noticeable that the proportion is much better in case of private aided schools. Despite this, the state requires to give attention to this aspect.  Electricity facility is one of the important initiatives that require collective decision of at least two departments such as the Power and Education Departments in the state. It has been found that despite having electricity in the village many schools are still without electricity. Meghalaya  has  the  lowest  proportion  of  schools (26%) with electricity  connection.   However, it is heartening  to  see  that  the  proportion  of  government  as  well  as  private  schools  with  library facility  is  quite  high  at  each  level  of  education. Again it is the north-eastern states like Manipur and Meghalaya which are placed at the lowest rank with around 7 – 8% primary schools, whether private or government, that have been provided with a library. With regards to computer facility Meghalaya is the only state where the lowest proportions of private unaided schools (11%) were found with computer facility. The EDI for infrastructure at primary and upper primary levels of the country indicate that Karnataka is the state which has improved its infrastructure facilities substantially as it ranks first for both levels. Here too Meghalaya holds the lowest rank.
Therefore it is high time to upgrade the infrastructure facilities of schools in the state particularly in the rural areas. There are issues that need to be addressed in the new Education Policy.

Yours etc.,

Phrangshai Hynniewta,

Via email

Unending plight of Dalits


Anil Kumar was a 37 year old man of Dabri village in Dwarka. He was the sole breadwinner for his family. He was asked to unclog a 20-feet-deep septic tank for some money. While doing that horrifying job without any helmet and safety gear, the poor man lost his life in September this year. He died of head injuries and left behind his wife and children. A couple of days before his death, 5 scavengers died of suffocation in a sewage plant in Delhi’s Moti Nagar area. According to the NGO Safai Karmachari Andolan, a safai karmachari (scavenger) dies every third day in a gutter on an average in our country.

Our poor brothers and sisters have been forced or lured by hard cash to completely dip themselves in sewer water without safety measures. Some of them die instantly after inhaling poisonous and nauseating gas. Others die a slow death after acquiring deadly infections. The Valmiki community’s engagement as manual scavengers is a glaring example of caste barrier in our society. Dr. BR Ambedkar said, “In India, a man is not a scavenger because of his work. He is a scavenger because of his birth irrespective of the question whether he does scavenging or not.” Being a Dalit himself, Ambedkar had empathy with the socially challenged Dalit scavengers.

And now, we have among us a Dalit activist, Berzwada Wilson to take up the cause of the scavengers. Born in a community of manual scavengers in Kolar, Karnataka, he saw his own parents carrying human excreta as it was the only work they were supposed to do. The champions of meritocracy may argue that Wilson did not have the merit in him to choose his parents! And that, they may say, must have been the reason why he was born, as it were, with a broom in his hand instead of with a silver spoon in his mouth!   Be that as it may, when he was a teenager, he first started working as a manual scavenger. But while working, he had a death – like experience. This made him resolve to fight against the menace. Later, Wilson led a nationwide movement called “Safai Karmachari Andolan” and brought under it other Dalit activists. The movement was launched in 1993 after he filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India listing nationwide violations of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. This organisation is also trying to find better jobs for manual scavengers. He got Ramon Magsaysay award for his work in 2016.

Apart from strictly enforcing the 1993 Act, we need state-of-the-art technology for scavenging to stop such glaring human rights violations. The sanitation workers should immediately be provided with modern technology and tools so that they like their counterparts in developed countries, do not have an iota of direct exposure to sewage water, waste and poisonous gas. Moreover, Indian Railways must immediately replace all of their conventional train toilets by bio train toilets so that excreta of passengers may not fall along the tracks to be cleaned by our brothers and sisters. Indeed, we have to get out of the gutter.

Yours etc.,

Sujit De,

Via email


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