TODAY -

Volunteers for Green Khamasom (VGK): Working for change

Dr Pamreihor Khashimwo *



Gandhiji said, "India's soul rests in her villages". This is so fitting and relevant, to this day. If Manipur has to grow, villages have to be thriving and should have access to all basic amenities, such as drinking water, education and healthcare.

A Green Village is one, which offers access to clean energy, adequate water, basic education, good healthcare, hygienic sanitation, leading to economic prosperity and enhanced quality of life. Today, major challenges faced in many villages are drinking water scarcity, lack of power supply, lack of adequate health care, open defecation and lack of school. Khamasom is no exception to these problems.

Khamasom is a medium size village positioned beautifully on top of a hill bordering Myanmar, Ukhrul, Manipur with total 388 households and with a population of 1996 as per Population Census 2011. The village literacy rate was 69.64 % compared to 76.94 % of Manipur.

Subsistence-agriculture is the primary occupation. The village is governing by Sarpanch (Head of Village) as per Indian Constitution and Panchayati Raj Act, of India. It is located 37 km away from Ukhrul, well known for its rich in flora and fauna and situated in the strategic international boundary with Myanmar.

Khamasom is perhaps one of the only villages in North-eastern India that has a thick virgin forest in the Indo-Burma border stretch. The village was in the news for a sighting of a one-off flower called 'Khamasam Van' that resembles a snake and 'Khamasam Lily.'

Volunteer for Green Khamasom (VGK) was formed in 2015 with a small number of dedicated volunteers and modest objective to address the problem of drinking water supply in the village, where government completely turned a blind eye for so many years.

VGK's mission is to inspire the villagers with a special focus on drinking water, sanitation, greening village, and education through mobilising local volunteers and funds to promote peace and development. VGK has not registered the organisation. It is running through donations and meagre contributions from poor families of the village. When VGK started their work, Khamasom was a village, where there was no access to regular drinking water supply and power.

With pure volunteerism and sacrifice, they successfully addressed drinking water problem faced by the village for considerable period and now working on sanitation and greening village so desperately needs in the village. With no help from the government, VGK mobilised funds and assembled, mended, and maintains 9 km long water pipeline through decently volunteer services for over 3 years.

You would not think only by peeking at the village now, that had once been parched, villager walked 2-3 km to fetch a bucket of water is gone. This shows how we can make a difference by volunteering, inspiring and teaching others to follow suit.

The random act of help, contribution, and donations from various families and individual is the main source of income to let VGK continue the work in the village. Thanks to 27th Assam Riffle, Sanjeev Mohla, DIG and Commandant Col. Rajesh Godra Under Sector 10 for their generous help and many big-hearted individuals who extend helping hand to VGK and relentless support from church leaders through prayers, active participation and material contributions.

For more than three years, VGK has been carrying out such herculean task with no help from any state or central government agencies. It is pain to see the government indifferent attitude towards poor village or organisation when they are struggling to fulfil their basic amenities of human life.

Today, a major challenge VGK facing is to sustain drinking water supply, address open defecation, the dearth of health care, road, and lack of power supply. Till date, with no help coming from the government, every poor household contributes to support continuing supply of water.

VGK, therefore, has financial and manpower shortages. While there might be a paucity of cash and resources, one thing the VGK have in abundance is ingenuity. It would be disingenuous to suggest that there isn't a sense of urgency about all this.

Intrepidly, VGK even started planning to address open defecation issue in the village and educating villagers about health and hygiene, where the district Swatch Bharat mission miserably failed to address the problem. VGK confidence that by 2022 every household will build toilets for more clean and green village and planning to brighten village through clean and renewable energy source.

If you want to help achieve this goal, you can either donate or volunteer for VGK. The green concept and simple techniques of VGK in the villages can help address various other village related issues. Most importantly, this concept can enhance health and well being of a village, which is assuming greater importance modern life.

The committed VGK remain undeterred by the difficulties traverse their path, however rough it may be, with joy and inner satisfaction. The unfaltering determination and beliefs of volunteers make them grow.

Although the changes have been small and slow, it can emulate the model to address the rural related problem in the state. The state government and district administration must wake up and need to work with such organisation in the village to inspire and for a better result.

There is room for the government to decide their priorities. The success of VGK is coordinated by a core team under the overall guidance and supervision of selfless and dynamic leadership of Shimreiyo Haorei and Shimreisa Francis Shongvah, dedicated core team included many young and senior citizens volunteers with great talent, experts on the ground and indomitable spirit of volunteerism, who identified and contextualised the issues on various technical and physical with no formal training.

Their names deserve to mention here but I failed to do so due to space constraint. With lucid narratives, this story gives an insight into the value addition VGK brings about by enhancing and changing community capacities in the area of drinking water, sanitation, etc. in the village.

It is commendable to notice the inspirational role VGK plays with commitment and dedication despite many hardships they face. Their resilience touches the heart. The indomitable spirit of service and humanism lead VGK to continue their voyage with the idea "my village my responsibility."


* Dr Pamreihor Khashimwo wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Research Associate, Centre for Air Power Studies
This article was webcasted on April 04 , 2018.



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