Ganiyari, June 2022
I returned to this part of Chhattisgarh after a nine-year gap. Having worked in the community programme of Jan Swasthya Sahyog for five years, my husband Ravi and I had moved back to Bhopal where I worked freelance. Last year I returned as a consultant / mentor to the community programme, spending a week here each month, and another few days from Bhopal (and now from Bangalore) for tasks that can be done offline.
When I am here I try to visit the villages as often as I can, supporting the field staff and reviewing their work. When I first returned after the long gap, it was with a sense of homecoming, though the campus of the base hospital at Ganiyari was unrecognizable due to so much construction: most of the empty spaces that made it so attractive were gone, covered with buildings: a larger lab, a larger inpatient ward, more outpatient buildings, a very large nurses' hostel, etc. And many more people on campus. The patient load seemed to have increased too, though there are more surgical patients than other cases, I understand.
|Patients waiting outside the gates of the JSS base clinic, Ganiyari|
The subcentres in the field have expanded too, especially the ones at Bahmni and Shivterai. The one is Semariya was falling apart and I am happy to say it is now being reconstructed almost from scratch, hopefully with more space. This centre is used a lot, with many more pregnant women and outpatients compared to the other two. Bahmni, where the clinic used to be overwhelmed with patients each Tuesday, has far fewer patients than before - attributed partly to the fact that the Government health centres in Surhi and Lormi (from where many patients would come to the clinic) are functioning better than before. That was good to hear.
The villages do not seem to have changed substantially compared to a decade ago. A few villages have some more pucca houses, some have individual standposts for water at each house. But apart from that, the roads between the villages are as bad as ever, the poverty seems the same, especially in the Baiga villages. The forest department is as refractory as ever about building a culvert across the Maniyari so we continue to wade across the river in the rainy season.
|Women of Rajak village, waiting for a village meeting|
There is more migration to more distant places - Tamil Nadu, Bombay, Delhi. And after the lockdown, many among those who have gone back have gone on a motorcyle. Their experience in 2019 has been a bitter one and they do not want a face a situation where they have to walk back from their place of work to their village in Chhattisgarh.