Holalbari Gohain Gaon just another village in Assam

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By: Smita Bhattacharyya

JORHAT, Dec 6: Holalbari Gohain Gaon, located about 20 km away from Jorhat town is sans a doctor, a dispensary, has poor transportation facilities, and above all its student population is mostly underweight.

This was found by 12 PhD research scholars and two medical staff members from the North East Institute of Science and Technology here recently in a one of its kind survey done in the region where all the parameters, social, economic, agriculture, health and hygiene were taken together.

Director of CSIR NEIST, G Narahari Sastry said that this first of its kind survey under CSIR’s 800 programme was conducted with the intention of understanding what the requirement of the people living in our villages was and where NEIST could intervene to better their condition.

“Usually research is conducted in the labs and then given to villages without understanding whether this is what’s best for them. It’s like a person from Mumbai coming down to a village and saying you don’t have an airport, a multiplex, hotels, etc. and telling and giving them these things which would be of no use. Here we are reversing this to know what the people want,” Sastry said

The director further said that this was an unbiased attempt to understand the socio economic and health problems of the rural poor in order to understand  the gaps for development.

The researchers had spent three nights at Holalbari Gohain Gaon which has a population of about 450.

Lisamoni Kalita, Monti Gogoi and Rajiv Goswami, three of the 12 PhD scholars, whom this correspondent met, said that the average income per family was between Rs 8000 to Rs 10000, most of them lived below the poverty line.

“Most of them are engaged in farming, as daily wage labourers or have small tea gardens. While alcoholism prevails among the adults, it is not evident among the juveniles,” Lisa Moni said.

In response to what problems they faced, the villagers had said that it was lack of access to fast medical treatment with no doctor or dispensary present in the village or nearby. Transportation bottlenecks made matters worse as the nearest centre was about 10 Kms away.

The research scholars who also conducted anthropomorphic tests with the help of the medical staff found that most of the adults had high blood pressure and vision problems. Out of the 60 high school students, the 45 who had been weighed were found to be underweight as per their BMI.

Monti said that most of the students worked in the morning alone or  along with one parent before going to school and none of them knew which subjects comprised the  science stream and which Humanities or Commerce. Rajiv added that there was low exposure to the outside world in the institute and that there were only four high school teachers to teach all the subjects.

The scholars had shown three experiments in the Meleng Gohain Gaon High School’s classroom  wherein the importance of science in our daily life had been explained. The team also exhibited some scientific experiments and popular science videos to dissipate scientific awareness among the herbal products developed at CSIR-NEIST, stationeries and laboratory glass wares, pen, pencil, duster, eraser, chocolates and charts of periodic table were distributed among the students and villagers during this survey.

As a part of the medical survey, the team collected the data of each member of the family like BMI, BP, Pallor test, hearing test, pulse, chest, neck measurements, etc and details about their regular diet.

Considering the growing need for awareness on women health and hygiene, the team also interacted with the women and shared experiences and information about menstrual hygiene and birth control.

The director said that this would be a continuous process with five more villages to be taken up and a website created in which details would be uploaded.

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