Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Attack on Christians in Orissa

Location Orissa, India : In the middle of August a group of about 50 naxalites (a group of extremists who use violent means against rich and the money lenders) attacked a Hindu ashram and gunned down five persons, including a Hindu priest. This priest had led some violent protests against Christians about an year ago. Catholic Church and other church leaders had condemned the murder of the Hindu priest and the other Hindus who died with him.

However, soon Hindu fundamentalist groups have begun attacking the Christian institutions, claiming that the "naxal groups" have joined the Christians! These same groups had vandalized churches, and killed many Christians on the Christmas eve of 2007. Attack on Christians in the state of Orissa has increased. Since 25 Aug, several churches, children's hostels and convents have been burned down, in various parts of this eastern coastel state of Orissa. Many priests and religious nuns, and hundreds of Christians have gone "missing". And at least 14 persons have been killed, including four Hindus. Ten are Christians, and they have been murdered with local weapons, sickles and swords-- still worse three of them are said to have been burnt live! (The four Hindus died in a police shoot-out to control the violent mob attacking Christians and Christian institutions.

To mark this tragedy, all Christian institutions in whole of India will remain shut on Friday 29 August 2008. You can download a slide-show on the Orissa atrocities by clicking on : Orissa Burning

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NGOs Reflect on Girl Child Education

Social Welfare Institute, PRIA and several other NGOs working in North Dinajpur have come together to work on Girl Child Education in the District. It is important to note that according to the national census conducted in 2001, female literacy in rural North Dinajpur is at an abysmal 31.5%, which includes all the children who are enrolled in the primary school level and who had dropped out at the elementary level of education. Building a strong force since February 2008, all the NGOs came together on 25 August 2008 at the Multipurpose Hall of the Collectorate to discuss the relevant issues relating to girl child education. Dr. Jeta Sankritanya, a Professor from North Bengal University, and Ms. Sanchari B., a Professor of the same University and Head of the Department of Women Social Studies, were present at the occasion. Puthumai A Nazarene, Director, Social Welfare Institute, who has been one of the founder member of this forum gave the initial address explaining the objectives of the forum and the intended activities in future, such as a thorough scientific study on the status of femal literacy and reasons for illiteracy among the women.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Food Crisis Hits North Bengal

Global food insecurity, high food prices, inconsistent monsoon over the last five years, failure of agriculture, rampant poverty and illiteracy, and high migration in search of manual non-agricultural labour, has left all the three districts of Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur facing a severe food crisis. (In a recent report, eight districts in West Bengal have been declared food insecure districts.) This means, more than one million people out of over eight million people in these three districts alone go without two meals in a day, and out of this, over 100,000 people go without even a single meal!

This crisis needs to be challenged and responded to. Few organizations met in the office of Catholic Relief Services in Kolkata on 21 August to discuss the situation, and have planned to prepare a working paper in the coming months. Puthumai A. Nazarene represented Social Welfare Institute at the meeting. Meanwhile the crisis is snow-balling into a humanitarian crisis. All generous people and organizations are requested to respond to this food crisis that has hit the poor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Boats to Rescue

Uttar Bhakuria and several other villages in Harishchandrapur II Block of Malda district are inundated with the water from Fulahar river and the rains that have left more than 3,000 people stranded across the Fulahar river. These villages actually are situated in a river island between the Ganges and the Fulahar. After persistent effort by our Staff and the Task Force teams that are in place as a result of the efforts of the Community Based Disaster Preparedness (CBDP) program in the area, supported by UNICEF, the Block Development Officer has approved three boats for evacuation of people and animals from those villages into the main land with effective from 19 August evening. We thank Mr. Tschering, the B.D.O of Harishchandrapur II, and appreciate the efforts of the CBDP team led by Ms. Bimala Baru, Mr. Asit, Mr. Sarkar and Mr. Prabir. Wonderful job done!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another Milestone!

We are proud to announce that with the launch of the new Human Resource Policy of Social Welfare Institute, we have taken another huge step to protect our Staff from unexpected threats to lives and physical harm through initiating insurance for all the Staff. In this process, the first group to be insured are the senior staff and the field staff (total 17 persons) of the Integrated Community Development Project supported by Caritas India. Each of them has been insured for a sum of Rupees one hundred thousand, and the premium will be shared by SWI and the staff on a 50:50 basis. We hope to cover all the Staff of SWI by the end of September 2008. And we gladly thank the President of Social Welfare Institute, Rt. Rev. Alphonsus D'Souza, Bishop of Raiganj and all the Governing Body members for giving the approval and taking keen interest in the welfare of the Staff!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Agencies Meet in Delhi

In the year 2000 an Inter-Agency Group was formed as part of strategic linkage among partners for relief and rehabilitation in places that are affected by natural calamities. Since then, such bodies have come up in many other states in India. Representatives of these Inter-Agency Groups came together in New Delhi on 11-12 Aug 2008. The West Bengal IAG was represented by Fr. Sarto, the convener of the Bengal IAG and R. Puthumai A. Nazarene, Director of Social Welfare Institute, and a member of IAG. At the meeting, all the IAGs discussed on the role, Uniform Response Strategies, Partnership, relationship with the Government bodies etc. Each IAG also presented a brief presentation about themselves. The West Bengal Presentation was prepared by Puthumai A. Nazarene, with inputs from other IAG members, specially Ms. Parnasri Ray Chowdhury and Fr. I.P. Sarto, and was presented by him. The West Bengal Presentation was much appreciated. You may download the Presentation by Clicking on West Bengal IAG Presentation.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

People on the Go !

The last two weeks have been very heavy with travels all around the diocese, and a couple of meetings in Kolkata. On 30-31 July, a review meeting on the Community Based Disaster Preparedness programs supported by Caritas India and Catholic Relief Services was held at Kolkata. Fr. Herman Kinda, the Assistant Director of SWI, Ms. Rekha Soren, the Project Coordinator, and Fr. R. Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director, attended the meeting. Puthumai was also made the coordinator for preparing clear indicators for Sustainability of the CBDP program. On 1 August, a meeting of all partners and prospective partners of FVTRS met at Kolkata for getting more clarity on the skill based programs supported by FVTRS.

On 30 July a team of officials from UNICEF led by the Program Officer (Emergency), Mr. Mukesh Puri and Ms. Parnasri (Emergency Officer, West Bengal - UNICEF) visited North Dinajpur and Malda districts. They had several meetings-- with the District Administrative officials, with the staff of SWI and few other private meetings with the Director of SWI, and few other NGO partners. For their visit to SWI, an elaborate preparation had been done by Ms. Bimala Baru and Ms. Rekha Soren and their staff. Puthumai A. Nazarene did some presentation for them at the meeting. A copy of it can be downloaded by clicking on : Emergency Preparedness Program Partnered by SWI.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Erosion Hit Malda to Get Relief

Social Welfare Institute in collaboration with Caritas India and Catholic Relief Services will undertake a small relief operation covering 150 families in Domahat and its neighboring villages by providing them free food worth Rs. 500 each and also build ten semi-permanent toilets for the people who have been affected by the erosion of the Ganges. The entire Operation New Life is scheduled to be completed by 10 August 2007, at a cost of Rupees 125,000 (approx. 3,100 US $/ 2,100 Euros). The children in these families will also get special baby-food. For more visuals, see the blog of 22 July 2008.