Centres for pavement dwellers

Shihab Sarkar | Published: November 28, 2015 19:25:58 | Updated: October 21, 2017 06:22:27


Many would have dismissed the dwelling centre for pavement people opened last week in the city as yet another gimmick. But the case was different. Although the land of the centre was allotted by Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), it has been jointly built by three NGOs (non-governmental organizations).
The pavement dwellers' centre carries a symbolic value for the two Dhaka City Corporations (DCCs). Constructing such centres has long been in Dhaka's municipal planning. Finally, DSCC has extended its help to give the idea a concrete shape. At the inaugural function, the DSCC mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon spoke of plans to allocate more plots for such centres in the city.
Since the days after they assumed office, the new mayors of the two Dhaka city corporations have been coming up with grand plans for the city. Most of these proved to be promises meant for just public consumption. Most of the corporations' preferred tasks, ranging from domestic waste management to footpath clearance to rainwater drainage, lay confined to papers. The commitments remained unmet. In this discouraging scenario, any welfare project put to work in Dhaka prompts many to take heart. Given the sheer volume of the hazards of living on pavement, centres for Dhaka's floating people make us eager to see those work properly.
That the DSCC will one day allocate land to set up a three-storey pavement dwellers' centre in the capital is news. Rights activists and urban experts now await its full-scale and active involvement in the running of these centres.  Dhaka is badly in need of such facilities. Surveys in 2014 showed that around 4.8 million people belong to the floating category.
The involvement of public welfare NGOs in the job is not unexpected. They have been serving Dhaka's urban poor through various programmes since long. They have opened schools for street children, and worked for the slum people. Lately a few NGOs have built public toilets in the city. But the onus lies with the DSCC and DNCC (Dhaka North City Corporation). The main burden of the task of alleviating the woes of the floating population thus will have to be shouldered by them. The role of the NGOs is expected to be supplementary.    
The recently inaugurated centre will offer a number of services to the floating people now under a roof. It will ensure safe drinking water, along with bathing arrangements, toilets and healthcare, etc. Special care will be taken to keep people in a hygienic condition. The most important of all, the authorities in charge of the centre aim to prepare its dwellers for different vocations. The task calls for training, which will be given importance at the centre. Literacy programme for children is also on the list of services to be offered.
Establishment of the first centre for pavement dwellers is a welcome development. Dhaka's pavement dwellers will welcome its replication. But, in view of our dismal record in operating many welfare facilities, there is the need for being alert so that vested interests and undesirable elements cannot spoil the ventures.
shihabskr@ymail.com
 

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