Thursday, April 18, 2024

Urkaliar river front becomes public drinking joint-cum-shelter for poor


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SHILLONG, March 24: The Urkaliar river, which has been regularly cleaned by the Operation Clean-Up (OCU) group since 2019 is rapidly turning into a big drain with the river water having turned black and greasy. Car washing on the river has not stopped because there’s no one to stop the drivers. The Dorbar Shnong Urkaliar seems only concerned with having turned the field, presently under litigation, into a football-cum-cricket ground.
When Sam Diengdoh, the secretary of the Urkaliar Dorbar Shnong, approached the then Deputy Commissioner, Isawanda Laloo for allowing the ground to be used as a playground instead of leaving it idle and allowing it to become a haunt for dipsomaniacs.
Now that the ground has regular games, the tipplers have shifted closer to the river. Mounds of white plastic in which the locally produced liquor is sold (pogo) is discarded by the riverside. When the fierce winds blow the plastics land up at the river and obstruct the steady flow of the river especially during the dry months.
Apart from being a daytime haunt for boozers who start their ritual as early as 8 am, now the place has also become an open-air shelter. At least two women and a few men were seen with their bedding by the river side. When they were asked the reason for sleeping in the open, one of the women said she is from Dawki and has children but she came to Shillong to look for work and got caught in this vicious habit. She said she was longing to be rehabilitated so that she would undergo de-addiction and get back to her work and family but did not know how to go about it. The lady said she was also addicted to marijuana (Ganja).
What is not understood is why a place which is has become a sporting ground has so many alcoholics and addicts hanging around the venue and what impact this will have on the youth. The locally produced liquor is not standardised and the ingredients used to make the drink potent must also be harmful for the human body. What many onlookers wonder is why the Excise department is doing nothing to stop this menace. Also they ask why the police are only focussed on arresting drug peddlers but are blind to all the illegalities happening in Urkaliar riverfront.
Operation Clean-up find that their endeavours to nurse the Urkaliar back to health is thwarted by the lack of cooperation from the Dorbar Shnong through which the river flows namely Nongrah, Lapalang, Rynjah, Umpling and Nongmensong. The Dorbar Shnong Urkaliar too has not taken part in the river clean-up even a single time and neither has it shown any inclination to join the river cleaning team.
When the destitute are now consigned to living by the side of the river, using plastic sheets to keep the dewdrops and rains at bay, the river can only get dirtier as they use it for all their needs and discard all unwanted articles into it.
The students of Martin Luther Christian University and Kiddies Corner, who have consistently been cleaning the Urkaliar river since 2019, ask pertinent questions. “Why don’t people living around the river ever join the cleaning drive?” — That’s a good question since they also use the river to discard their garbage and their liquid waste and sewerage.
Urkaliar river needs desperate measures to save itself from callous humans. “Will the government step in and take some drastic measures?” ask the members of Operation Clean-up.


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