Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Busting the Kidney Racket

Kidneys lost for better job - Impact of Social Welfare Institute's Activities in Raiganj on Anti Human Trafficking

Statesman News Service
RAIGANJ, Sept. 23: Chhatu Murmu (35) and Abdul Mannan (40) of Baliadangi in Bindol in North Dinajpur district had lost their kidneys to private nursing home in Kolkata about one and half years ago. They had lodged a complaint against Abdul Rejjak of Bindol whom police have recently arrested from Bindol Village against the charge of immoral trafficking.
The complainants told police that in 2007, Abdul Rejjak, with a promise to provide them better jobs, brought them to Kolkata. In Kolkata, Rejjak gave them some food eat
ing which they fell sick. Later, they were admitted to a private nursing home in Kolkata where their kidneys were stolen in the pretext of treatment, the complainants said.
They added that Rejjak gave them some money after they were released from the nursing home and told them to go back home. “He also threatened us and said not to disclose the matter. We underwent ultra sonography after returning home and discovered to our horror that the kidneys were gone,” they said.
When news of the incident spread, SUCI activists turned up a
t the Raiganj police station to demonstrate demanding severe punishment against Abdul Rejjak. They also demanded the arrest of other associates of Abdul Rejjak who were actively involved in North Dinajpur district.
A social worker from Bindol, Miss Susmita Sarkar, (of Social Welfare Institute- photo below) said: “Apart from Chhatu Murmu and Abdul Mannan, about 40 others
from different villages like Bindol, Baliadangi, Bajebindol, Jalipara have lost their kidneys while working in other states. As far as we know, both Bangru Jali (45) and Jatin Jali (44) lost their kidney during their stay in Delhi and are now suffering from several diseases.”
Chhatu Murmu said: “My kidney was stolen one-and-a-half years ago. I had not informed the police earlier as Rejjak had threatened me with dire consequences if I did.” The police superintendant of North Dinajpur, Mr Shankar Singha, said: “Investigation has begun against the Kolkata nursing home. Abdul Rejjak, the kingpin would be in custody till 29 September. We would pray to court to send him police remand for a few days.”

Unusual Dry Weather

Baring some very strong early rains, the service areas (three districts) of Social Welfare Institute have been hit by an unusual dry weather since the middle of July. This has left farmers who depend on rain water to fall back on the scarce and already over exploited ground water and expenditures in the process. I am told that even simple household grocery item like green chillies which used to cost 20 rupees (about half a dollar) a kilo just three months back, has now hit 60 rupees in some local markets ($ 1.5). SWI did a survey in six villages as a sample in the three districts, to see the extent of damage done to the poor due to price-rise and non-availability of essential goods. The reports are alarming.... ranging from malnutrition due to partial starvation, increasing dependence on money lenders, unsafe migration in search of jobs, and sheer socio-economic exploitation. The days are hard and dry. The winter is looking up. More expenditures for the poor as the festival season has drawn near.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Struggling for Food Security

Many reports have come out saying that several districts in West Bengal are on the verge of a food crisis. In order to discuss on this issue, 78 persons (priests, religious and NGO workers) from West Bengal gathered at Social Welfare Institute, Raiganj on 12 Sept 2008. Inaugurating the discussions, Fr. S. Santhappan said that our knowledge must also be moved to the level of action, so that our activities can benefit the poor. Fr. Sarto, the Director of Association of Bengal Collaborators for Development (ABCD), facilitated the sessions for proper planning at the West Bengal regional level for helping people to get access to food security related programs of the government. Sr. Mariola, the National Coordinator of the CBCI Commission for Justice, Peace and Development narrated on the various issues and reasons for the food crisis, and deliberated on some of the schemes that can assist the poor. Mr. Aftab Alam, the North Dinajpur District NREGA Coordinator, explained the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme of the Government in details, besides explaining the Annapurna Yojana, Antodaya Yojana and the Public Distribution Scheme of the Government. Fr. Puthumai A. Nazarene, Director of Social Welfare Institute, giving the key note address deeply analysed the socio-politico-economic reasons for the current crisis in West Bengal, and how the changing power structures have added to the crisis in rural Bengal. Fr. Patras Bara thanked all the participants and called for higher levels of motivation on the part of everyone.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Women Destroy Parthenium

Women of Self Help Groups supported by Social Welfare Institute in Patiram area destroyed hundreds of thousands of Parthenium plants that had grown wild along the State Highway that runs through their villages. Twenty eight women and two staff of Social Welfare Institute dressed in masks and gloves given as gift by the Issaqua family of Washington State, (brought by our own Andrea Smith during her last visit to Raiganj), spent the entire 07 September, 2008, a Sunday --from dawn to dusk--in cutting down, gathering and then destroying the Parthenium plants with boiling hot water. The team destroyed the weed for a distance of two-and-a-half kilometers on either side of the road. The parthenium, if comes in contact, creates respiratory malfunctioning in humans and cattle. The event was covered by many local print and electronic media. Congrats to the team of women and to Mr. Jayanta Das and Fr. Herman Kindo, who coordinated and motivated the women.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fighting Tuberculosis

In May 2008, while speaking to a group of young German students studying Public Health in Limburg, Germany, I was amazed to see that they were all studying about Tuberculosis, a disease that kills over 1.5 million people annually, and yet they had not seen even a single patient with TB! Back home, almost every other person suffers from this disease that eats up your lungs, as if it is like a soft cake! Catholic Relief Services, Caritas India, Catholic Health Association of India and CBCI Commission for Health have joined together in fighting this disease, with support from Global Fund : to be called the First IMPACT Project. Social Welfare Institute will partner with them to minimize the spread of this disease as thousands are affected by tuberculosis in the three districts we serve. Sr. Anisha SDS, Mr. Bipul Roy, and Mr. Shyamapada Goswami have identified as contact persons for North Dinajpur, Malda and South Dinajpur districts, respectively.

The first workshop was held at Kolkata on 02 Sept 2008, and was attended by over 35 participants from various organizations. The Social Welfare Institute team was led by Puthumai A. Nazarene, the Director. He also functioned as the Master of Ceremonies for the entire program, besides taking care of a presentation on the Health network of Catholic Church in West Bengal. The West Bengal State Health Secretary, State Tuberculosis Officer, and many other persons from the health department and from various non-governmental and church-based organizations were present. Dr. Anasua Bagchi of CBCI-Health Commission had organized the meeting.