Report by Odisha Diary bureau, Berhampur: Berhampur children’s federation today in Ganjam Kala Parishad in its 12th meeting has celebrated their 1st anniversary of formation of first ever ‘children’s federation’ in Berhampur city. More than 180 children from 25 slums witnessed and cheered the celebration of completion of their one year of struggle to be united to fight for their rights and a safe living neighborhood. In this occasion child club leaders and advocates also discussed on safe and healthy space specifically issues related to electricity and streetlight, road and transport.
Safe roads, better traffic management, safe transport system and safe electricity are essential for the healthy living of children in slums and in the city. Increasing vehicle population in Berhampur where roads are narrow, no space for pedestrians and lack of one way roads are the major concerns for mounting road accidents in the city where children are the worst sufferers. On the other hand poor management of traffic, poor infrastructure, shortage of human resources, conventional method of traffic management, low level of traffic awareness among citizens and poor political and bureaucratic will has resulted more road accidents killing innocent children in Berhampur city.
Similarly poor access to electricity connection at home and in slums doesn’t let them to read and play and no presence of street light to all slums results fear of movement, violence in absence of streetlight robbery, theft and harmful activities for slum communities and children on the other hand children are unable to move, play in the evening and loss the time to meet their peers in slums. Dangerous situation arises due to hanging of electricity wires in slums where children’s movement are more, as a result there are ample chances of accident due to electricity shock and also death of children.
Berhampur city being the 2nd largest city in Odisha having 1, 17, 541 population living in 163 slums in urban poverty has experienced very bad and unsafe roads, bad management of traffic and poor access to public transport, low access to electricity and streetlight that hamper children’s physical and cognitive development.
Youth for Social Development (YSD) a local non-government organization working on issues of governance, citizen participation, youth and child development and climate change with the most vulnerable sections of the society like children, women and youth, has facilitated children’s federation in Berhampur city to improve the living condition of young children living in urban poverty. Children’s federation with the representation from 40 slums has been actively engaged with the local and state government to improve their living condition and make Berhampur a child friendly city, since January 2014.
Major demands on road and traffic, electricity and street light by the children are;
• Ensure efficient management of traffic with strict monitoring by traffic police
• Deployment of ‘traffic police’ in all traffic areas in Berhampur city
• Construct child friendly ‘zebra crossing’ in all traffic areas in Berhampur
• Construction of children friendly ‘passenger halts’ in all bus stops
• Strict laws for traffic rule violators and implement in its full spirit
• Create ‘heavy traffic’, ‘low traffic’ zones and accident prone areas and specify speed limits in these areas
• Strict implementation of traffic rules in ‘no entry zones’ and ‘no entry times’ for heavy vehicles in the city.
• Strict monitoring of all ‘heavy traffic zones’ during ‘peak hours’
• Construction of ‘pedestrian way’ in both sides of the roads
• Compulsory ‘road safety education’ in all schools for children
• Provision of ‘low floor buses’ in all public transport for child friendly riding
• Reserve ten percent (10%) of seats for children in all public transport
• Provision of more city buses in the city to reach interiors in the city
• Clearing of hanged electricity wires from slums to a safe position
• Covering all dangerous electricity transformers by brick walls in slums and in the city
• Provision of better all weather (concrete) roads to all slums in the city for smooth mobility
• Avail streetlight in all slums for better lighting and safe evenings and smooth nightlife
Among the participants Anjali Patra, President of Raghupati Nagar, Basant Kumar Das, Vice-president of Old Berhampur Bauri Street, Sivani Das, Secretary of Phulasundari Street, and Pinki Das, Asst. Scretary of Dhimira Bauri Street and Jhili Jena, Treasurer of Pichipicha Nagar and other members of the Children’s Federation and child clubs presented and shared their opinion. Two officials from SOUTHCO and GUTSL participated in this meeting.