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November 13, 2019

Azadi March: Inadequate hygiene conditions trouble ‘dharna’ participants


November 13, 2019

Participants of Azadi March taking nap on Kashmir Highway during sit-in. INP

ISLAMABAD: Thousands of people living in the tents at Kashmir Highway for JUI sit-in face inadequate hygiene conditions. According to ‘dharna’ participates, not enough toilets and water supply for this big number of people is leading to diseases.

Despite the claims from security and administrative wing of JUI-F ‘dharna’ ‘Ansar-ul-Islam’, the ‘dharna’ venue stinks at many places with garbage especially Styrofoam boxes and glasses all around the place. Though the participants agree to the situation but their answer is always be, “but we are determined to stay until our leader asks us to be here. Such things will have no impact on our ‘dharna’.”

“Yes the hygiene issues are irritating. We have people deputed to clean the place and Asar ul Islam also joins them. We are not like the participants of 2014 ‘dharna’,” said Ubaid Ullah from Pasheen Quetta. Ubaid was having tea in the cold evening at a temporary ‘khoka’ run by the two young boys from Islamabad who were taking maximum business advantage from this big gathering.

“We sell breakfast here which includes ‘parathay’, chickpeas masala and eggs,” said Bashir, a salesperson at the ‘khokha’ who was preparing dough for the ‘parathaas’. They sell around 200 Parathas every morning. “There are many other ‘khokhas’ around and people also cook their own food in tents,” he said while talking about how the rest of the people get food.

Garbage strewn around ‘khokha’ depicted the state of cleanliness and the stinking Nullah on the way that leads to the sit-in venue talked volumes about the sanitation situation. The 150 makeshift toilets are definitely not enough for this number of people. “Some use these toilets whereas other use the toilets of nearby mosques when required,” said Ubaid Ullah who insisted that they are very cautious about the cleanliness. “People clean the places on their own as well. But still there is no mechanism of picking the garbage,” he agreed.

He said that this issue combined with harsh weather is leading to different diseases. He said that till date, more than 700 people got sick. “Majority suffered from fever, flue and cold. Three old men also died,” he said. About assistance offered by city administration, one participant proudly said that they made them run away.

Adding to their woes, the heavy rain and storm, few days, ago washed away the temporary washrooms arranged for the ‘dharna’ participants. "We had around 150 toilets. A good number of those toilets were washed away but majority has been rebuilt,” claimed another participant.

Talking to ‘The News’, Senior Vice President JUI F Mufti Awais Islam agreed to the cleanliness issues. “Obviously the problems are there. It is a big crowd with people speaking different languages. We have group of people deputed to keep check on cleanliness. People from Ansar ul Islam also give duties day and night to keep the venue clean. We are not like 2014 ‘dharna’ participants who used to leave garbage on the road,” he said.

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