Birth of a Sustainable Community

Rathodi is a medium sized slum area in Mumbai that houses close to fifteen thousand huts. This area alike the thousand others, budded in deplorable conditions amidst garbage was very unhygienic. Large puddles of stagnant water welcomed swarms of mosquitoes to breed, ultimately spreading malaria and possibly dengue. Local authorities had even reported one death case due to malaria and the issue was escalating. Humanity demanded that some help be given to the slum dwellers.

Looking at the circumstances our organisation decided to intervene to resolve the slum issues. Our social workers contacted the slum leader in an attempt to determine the degree of issue at hand. A detailed discussion followed by open dialogue, helped the workers identify imminent problems as well as the current pressing issues. BMC authorities were then contacted personally and they jointly organized an awareness camp for malaria and other communicable diseases. Close to two hundred children benefitted from the program. Incidentally, a bond of trust and faith was developed between the people and our organization.

Regular testing of water samples was carried out to determine its purity. Sprays were used to treat malaria affected areas. This alone would have been useless without the constant support given by the social workers. These workers educated the slum dwellers about unsafe practices such as stepping in stagnant water or allowing water to collect for extended period of time. They encouraged proper garbage disposal practices which was the only way to nip the problem.

These slums had formed years ago and the residents had lived there for as long as twelve years. We also managed to convince the local officials to install forty dustbins in the area to facilitate proper disposal of solid waste. Tragically, the slum population faced more problems in the name of corruption. The major achievement was issuing of Ration cards that allowed these slum residents to obtain food at a discounted rate, were available only after bribing the officials from Rs.2000 to Rs.6000.The residents were made aware of the government policies and were made to form a united front to approach the higher officials demanding strict action to put an end to such corruption.The result was each ration card was issued a Rs.22 only. Our organisation was instrumental in acting as a link between the officials and the residents.

For the women cultural get together such as Haldi Kum Kum the slum had formed a society that could handle problems on their own. This marked a beginning of social reform and birth of a better community were set up that allowed them to come together and live in harmony.The social workers also arranged summer camps for children and set up Balvadis for toddlers with 2 teachers remuneration being paid by the organisation. Thus the interest and liking for education was developed amongst the children. The slum society was fraught with superstition and the social workers worked with them trying to rid them of their notions. Camps were organized to make people eliminate superstitious beliefs. They also arranged trips for the youth to Chotta Kashmir where the AIDS awareness programs were set up.

Today,months after Maria Ashiana first stepped into Rathodi, we can claim many achievements:
1. Medical camps for treatment of communicable diseases
2. Anti-malaria measures ( sewage control, spraying of insecticides, etc. )
3. AIDS awareness programmes
4. Formation of a Public Health Trust
5. Regular testing of water purity
6. Installation of forty dust bins as part of solid waste management measures
7. Setting of kindergarten school for young children
8. Securing of ration cards for all eligible famiies
9. Community bonding functions