Community Correspondent Neeru Rathod brought an end to the unsanitary conditions that had been plaguing 20 families in Sayala block for years, in a matter of days. Her weapon? The angst of the community and the visual evidence she had gathered.
A video published on 17th April 2013 documented the unhygienic conditions that one neighbourhood of Sayala Block, Surendranagar, Gujarat, had been living in. The problem was twofold: a broken sewage pipe leaking filth on to the roads and a garbage dump that was not cleaned on a regular basis.
Under the Indian government’s Nirmal Gram Abhiyan (Clean Village Initiative), a village council is responsible for ensuring proper sewage and garbage disposal. In this case, the council had clearly neglected its duties towards the people.
“I had gone to film about another story. One of the women in the neighbourhood told me that the problem had been getting worse. Children were constantly falling sick. Even getting to the Anganwadi in the area was turning into a game of skip the puddle,” says Neeru.
While the residents of the area had repeatedly asked the council and even sent a letter, the council had sat quiet. Neeru tells us that there had been constant changes of authority in the council and each person tried to act as if it wasn’t their fault. The people felt that they were being ignored, that they weren’t important enough.
Neeru’s video helped change that. She showed the footage of the garbage along with the testimonies of the residents to the village council.
“I made a video and gathered the people, who were already very angry, to sign a petition and sent it to the village council. We demanded that if the problem would not be solved immediately, we would go on strike in front of the council office,” continues Neeru.
Even before the rough footage could reach the edit tables in the Goa office, the issue was being resolved. The headman came along with the Municipal workers to survey the situation. People were put to work and the area was cleaned up. The complete victory, however, will only be declared once a new sewage line is laid.
“As a Community Correspondent, I feel that my work cannot be done unless a community backs me. In this case I had their full support and co-operation. I felt really good that we could channel their frustration at the situation to get something positive for the community,” says Neeru.