Findings from Rapid Assessment of Basic Amenities at Protest Sites

FOCUS

On January 11, 2021, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) published Findings from Rapid Assessment of Basic Amenities at Protest Sites, which contains its Delhi and Haryana chapters’ findings on the sanitation, water supply, solid waste management and health facilities at five farm protest sites. (JSA is a country-wide movement on healthcare consisting of over 150 organisations, 21 national networks and several state-level units.)

Lakhs of farmers, at many sites around Delhi and Haryana, have been protesting against the central government’s three new farm laws – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. These laws were first issued as ordinances on June 5, 2020, then introduced as bills in Parliament on September 14, and rushed through to become Acts by the 20th of that month.

JSA conducted this assessment of 201 respondents from December 19 to 22, 2020, at the protest sites in Gazipur, Palwal, Singhu, Shahjahanpur and Tikri. The 22-page report has 11 parts: Introduction (part 1); General observations related to respondents (part 2); Water Supply (part 3); Sanitation (part 4); Menstrual Hygiene (part 5); Water stagnation (part 6); Solid Waste Disposal (part 7); Food, Shelter and Clothing (part 8); Health Issues (part 9); Concluding Observations (part 10) and Demands (part 11).

    FACTOIDS

  1. Of the 201 protestors surveyed, 56 per cent were from Punjab and 30 per cent were from Haryana, and others came from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Around 11 per cent were women. Over a third – 36 per cent – of respondents were below 36 years, 26 per cent were between 49 and 65 years, and 14 per cent were 65 or older. The respondents were mostly farmers, but also included doctors, teachers, wage labourers, retired government employees and students.

  2. A majority of respondents consumed packaged or tank water that had been arranged by volunteers. About five per cent bought their own water bottles for drinking and cooking.

  3. For cleaning, bathing, washing and other non-drinking purposes, most respondents relied on water arranged by volunteers (70 per cent), followed by that supplied by locals (18.5 per cent) and state government water tanks (5.8 per cent).

  4. Roughly 21 per cent of respondents said that they faced water shortage at their protest site.

  5. More than half of the respondents (57.5 per cent) said that they used open spaces for defecation. Only 10.5 per cent observed that the mobile toilets set up by local authorities were clean and with adequate water supply; 69.2 per cent said they were not regularly cleaned and about 50 per cent reported that they had no water. Respondents also said that it was difficult to access these toilets – 48 per cent stated that the queues were always long, and 47 per cent said that they were in far off places.

  6. Most women respondents had to arrange their own sanitary pads, and few said they received pads from medical camps at the protest sites. In the absence of disposal facilities, 31 per cent of women respondents had to dispose of their used pads on the roadside.

  7. Around 40 per cent of respondents observed that there was water stagnation at protest sites. The problem was reported to be most severe in Ghazipur where 9 of 10 respondents reported stagnation. Most – 57.8 per cent – identified inadequate drainage facilities as the main reason for water stagnation.

  8. A majority of respondents said that solid waste was mainly being disposed of on roads, despite collection attempts by volunteers. Only 23.6 per cent said they found proper means of solid waste disposal. The situation in Shahjahanpur was better than other sites: 56.5 per cent of the site’s respondents noted that waste was being regularly disposed of. At Singhu and Tikri – the biggest two protest sites – only 15.7 per cent of respondents stated that waste was regularly being disposed of.

  9. No respondent – barring two – slept empty stomach on any day at the protest. Food was adequate due to the presence of community kitchens and langars at the sites. But 78 per cent of respondents felt that their clothes and blankets were not enough to beat the cold, 24 per cent complained of mosquitos and 55 per cent said they had not seen their site being fumigated.

  10. Some respondents (eight per cent) had pre-existing health issues, such as hypertension, diabetes, and high blood pressure and glucose levels. About ten per cent faced health problems at the site, including skin infections and a range of gastro-intestinal issues. Doctors at the protests suspect these were consequences of the lack of sanitation, hygiene, and drinking and other water, at the sites.

  11. The report comments, based on its observations of the five protest sites, that there has been “…a complete failure of the state machinery in ensuring proper arrangements for sanitation and clean drinking water.” While governments have placed mobile toilets at the sites, they are too few and mostly unhygienic. There is no lighting system, making it hard for women protesters to visit toilets after dark.

  12. JSA Haryana and Delhi, through this report, demand that governments provide proper sanitation facilities and an adequate number of regularly cleaned toilets at the protest sites; arrangements for clean drinking water as well as regular solid waste collection and disposal; adequate medical staff and facilities, including tents for climate-related health issues; active counselling and mental healthcare teams; and efforts to contain mosquitos and flies.


    Focus and Factoids by Nivedita Gautam.

AUTHOR

Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Delhi and Haryana

COPYRIGHT

Jan Swasthya Abhiyan

PUBLICATION DATE

11 Jan, 2021

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