Travelling to Moradabad and the Polio Rally
We had originally planned to go to Moradabad in a small coach but were told this was impossible because some of the roads we would be driving along were too small and rough for a coach. In the event, this proved to be true.
So we leave Delhi in a convoy of four cars with half of our luggage left in Delhi because of the compact nature of the cars. Problems with obtaining a pre-booked packed breakfast meant that our departure from Delhi was delayed by 30 minutes.
Moradabad is about 100 miles east of Delhi and theoretically takes 2¾ hours to drive (i.e. an average driving speed of 40 mph). This timing is optimistic because of the amount of traffic (even early in the morning), toll booths, the road surface and much more. It actually takes 3¾ hours to drive there (an average speed of 30 mph) and therefore the procession is well underway when we arrive. Our joining the procession is not helped by the fact that its route was changed at the last minute by the local Police.
Therefore by the time we arrived in Moradabad, the rally had started and is in full voice.
Processions are an integral part of Polio Vaccination Days because they raise awareness in the area that tomorrow is another vaccination day. India is a country where many people cannot read or do not have access to radios or TVs and therefore you cannot rely on the conventional western ways of informing the public about something.
Our procession was led by a loudspeaker strapped to a tricycle taxi with two students shouting encouraging phrases about the elimination of polio at the tops of their voices.
Following this were a variety of Rotarians and other supporters all seeking to make their presence felt as much as possible.
There also were a number of armed guards. I am not sure how effective they would have been if they had been required but they were not needed for any reason other than controlling traffic.
The rally ended in a school yard
with a variety of speeches
and a number of interesting slogans on display.
Rotary Rag Pickers Health Camp
Nearby is a Bengali Rag Pickers Camp. West Bengal is a state on
the far eastern side of India. It is a very populous state and very poor. Hence people leave the state and look for employment elsewhere in India, no matter how uninviting the alternative might be. In Moradabad is a camp
inhabited by RagPickers who come from West Bengal - rag picking means that they are allowed by the local government to sift rubbish from 4 am to 6 am in search of anything which might have a remake value. In the main this means plastic bottles which sell for around 17 rupees a kilo, tin cans and anything else they can find.
Here about 125 families live in abject poverty on an enclosed section of land on the western side of the town.
the land is covered with “huts” and “shelters” within which they live
and piles of rubbish
which are sorted for recycling.
One suspects that the smiling faces hide the harshness of their lives.
Past District Governor Sudhir Gupta has set up a Rotary sponsored Health Camp which provides basic medical services to this camp and other similar camps scattered around the area.
Underneath an awning, a number of staff provide basic medical advice to those that live there
and other medical supplies free of charge. I was so impressed by the project that I made a substantial financial contribution to the project on behalf of my Rotary Club.
Those organising the camps have recently taken delivery of a minibus funded through Rotary Foundation and an Australian Rotary Club for use when transporting health workers between the camps.
The local Rotary Club is also running a Sanitation Project which provides toilets in schools and we went to see (not try out) two sets of toilets. The first was in a school in the centre of a built up area and to get to it required us to walk from a market where the freshness of the food was as good or better than that at a supermarket in the UK
and the display was just as enticing
down a narrow street jammed with traffic through the centre of town past very fresh meat (still alive for the next few minutes in most cases) until we got
to the school where the classrooms were all open on one side and all opened onto the same central area.
All of the classes were very full, facilities were rudimentary and the children very excited to see us.
and we were able to admire the toilet.
The second was in a rural school where they admitted that a major problem for them had been where to site it. Ideally they wanted it outside of the school but those living nearby did not want it in front of their houses so it had to be put into the playground (I would have thought that was the best place in anycase).
We were garlanded on arrival
and the whole school was assembled in the playground waiting for us to arrive.
The toilet block is very good although I wonder if it is sufficient for such a large school.
A fresh water pump has been installed nearby. The maximum depth from which these pumps can pump up water is around 7 metres and hence proper toilets are essential to ensure that drinking water is not contaminated by toilet waste.
Toilets and water pumps might seem only a minor thing but they are major steps forward in improving the health of those using them as against using ditches etc and the waste is appropriately collected rather than being allowed to get into the local environment in an uncontrolled way.