Howrah, (C.M. Paul) – Keeping with the spirit of Don Bosco to respond to the needs of youth at risk, Kokata Salesians started a new initiative for youth who make scavenging garbage as their livelihhod.
“In 2014, seeing the pitiful living condition and health situation of the people, especially the women and the children and the youth, the Salesians of Don Bosco launched a multi-pronged project to reach out to these most poor and needy people,” says project coordinator Dr Mathew George, Secretary of the Salesian Province of Kolkata.
Speaking about the help extended to the scavengers Dr Mathew George explains, “we have initiated a monthly nutrition programme for 155 babies and their mothers.”
Other helps given to scavengers include medical camps, healthcare and hospitalization programmes for the sick, especially those who needed surgery, income generating small scale business for young men and women who go for scavenging, computer classes for those lucky ones who are able to go to school, together with text books and note books.
Dr Mathew George hopes to start soon tailoring classes for women who want to learn an alternative occupation and earn additional income.
Former professor of of Theology at Sacred Heart College Shillong Dr Mathew George adds, “The focus of our outreach has been on health and hygiene, and improvement of the living condition of the people who live in sub-human conditions.”
An estimated 7000 Dalits who were evicted from Bellilious Park Howrah on 2 February 2003 by the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) having no other place to go were forced to settle down in Belgachhia Bhagar garbage dump area and in the open lands beside the railway track.
Situated 3 kms away from Howrah Railway station Bhagar, HMC’s waste dumping ground receives several thousand tons of garbage every day, brought in by hundreds of trucks operated by the corporation.
The whole area is dotted with hillocks formed over the years by the waste materials dumped. Nearly 500 families, mainly destitute migrant families from Bihar live in and around the dumping ground, and make a living by scavenging, looking for recyclable waste materials like plastics and bottles, etc.
The area is terribly unhygienic with dirt and slime everywhere and some 6,000 pigs jostle with humans for a place to live and survive. The area is a breeding ground for all types of sickness, especially brought about by highly contaminated and toxic water which form puddles all over the place. In rainy season the stench is unbearable and in summer the burning materials fill the area with smoke. Children and women are the worst affected.
Contact: Dr Mathew George – e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org