Independence From Unclean Surroundings
Independence from unclean surroundings, that is what we want, pledged the residents of Kalbelia Basti in Ajmer on 15 August 2016.
Kalbelia Basti is a resettlement colony in Nehru Nagar, Ward 42 of Ajmer. Residents of this colony have banded together to form Settlement Improvement Committees (SICs), supported by PRIA. During an orientation and training meeting organised by PRIA the week before, SIC members were keen to celebrate Independence Day on 15 August. They graciously invited PRIA colleagues to join in. The members collected contributions from the community and made arrangements for a stage, sound system, chairs and drinking water. Ramesh, an SIC member, was handed over the responsibility of anchoring the program, and he did a marvellous job.
The entire community participated enthusiastically, especially the children who were present in large numbers. Families were in a celebratory mood. A young girl from the community along with her friends sang the national anthem to the start the program. PRIA staff and SIC members were invited on stage. A senior member of the PRIA team spoke about the importance and relevance of the day and stressed the need to continue to struggle for basic services like education, sanitation, and health services in the settlement.
The president of the SIC, Mr. Bhopnath, spoke of how the struggles of the Kalbelia community have borne fruit in getting basic housing for the community. The community’s previously nomadic life had affected the education of their children, he said. Mr. Pappunath, the secretary of the SIC, spoke of the importance of the SIC as a bridge between the community and government officials, and other governance institutions. He also talked about the role and responsibilities of the SIC for the development of Kalbelia Basti.
The children listened attentively, waiting impatiently for the speeches to conclude and the cultural activities to begin. A group of women presented traditional Kalbelia dance with rousing support from the audience. This was followed by individual dance performances by women from the community. Community members joined in singing their favourite songs when a musical troupe performed. The traditional occupation of the Kalbelias is snake charmers. A snake charmer was also present on this occasion. SIC functionaries distributed prizes to the performers and sweets among the children.