The Ajala Project presents Nayeem Pasha, founder of Kriya Sangh Society.
To empower the youth of Rasoolpura, one of Hyderabad’s largest slums, Nayeem launched Kriya Sangh Society. The non profit tackles four main issues, namely health, education, skills and livelihood development, and water sanitization.
A conversation with Nayeem Pasha is generally peppered with interruptions -sometimes another phone call sounds off, or a visitor pops into his office without an appointment, or he leaves to urgently handle an issue in the slum. The daily interruptions are a snippet of the work Pasha manages through Kriya Sangh Society, a nonprofit working to improve the lives of one of the largest slums in Hyderabad – Rasoolpura. After working on the slums community issues for more than 16 years, Pasha’s stories are countless.
Pasha registered Kriya Sangh in 2005 and spent the next year solving the local water problem. Before that, families from the slum walked two kilometers every morning to fill water cans that would hopefully last them the day. The walk was long and especially unsafe for the women, who mostly ran the errand. Pasha and his team decided to install a government borwell nearby bring the water supply closer. After spending three months at the offices of municipal authorities, Kriya Sangh obtained permission to begin work. Once completed, the mechanic who built the borwell inaugurated it to much celebration in the community. That, however, did not settle well with local politicians.
“[They] were unhappy because we did not invite anyone to inaugurate the well…we didn’t know we had to invite anyone,” he said. “Humko paani se matlab tha (we cared about the water).” Pasha said local goons were sent to punish the community for not observing protocol. The elders resolved the issue, but they “learned that to even do good work, we have to think before doing it.”
Kriya Sangh is a group of ten focusing on four primary domains – health, education, skills and livelihood development, and water sanitization. They offer vocational training for the slum’s residents and prepare them for skill-based jobs like sewing, carpentry or hairdressing. For the younger ones, Kriya Sangh led a boycott of the local school when a garbage dump became a permanent, overflowing sight outside the school gates.
“It became like a punishment… there was such a bad smell there that we couldn’t stand for 10 minutes…and kids stay there for 7-8 hours,” he said. “We reported it to the government, but there was no response.”
On Children’s Day in 2012, Kriya Sangh staged a sit-in with the kids in the middle of the dump. Media attention led to government intervention to clean the area. Now, there are trees growing there instead. Interestingly, most of Pasha’s recounts of Kriya Sangh’s work follows a similar pattern: a problem that needs solving is followed by a lack of government attention which leads to Kriyasangh taking action.
Kriya Sangh Society organized a sit-in to protest a garbage dump outside the local school.
A resident of the slum, Pasha finds his motivation at home. “I am inspired by my own problems and by the work we have to do,” he said. One of four brothers, his father died in 2011 and his mother is diabetic. All his siblings work in construction. His friends volunteer whenever possible, but their jobs and family demand their time.
“Some of my friends are earning more, and sometimes my mother says, ‘Look how you are working for others, but your friends have bought cars for their families’,” Pasha said. ”Friends also say that [I am] just mad, but some say [I am]doing good work.” With a rarely steady supporting team, Pasha has learned to focus on his goal regardless of who remains with him.
“The team comes and goes, but you have to stay focused on your goal,” he said. “I used to cry when I would lose people. Now, I’m used to it…keep doing your work…and don’t lose hope.”
Currently, Pasha is setting up a permanent healthcare plan and medical centre in the slum. It is his dream project. Under the plan, families would pay 500 rupees per year to receive primary medical treatment for free. Counting the total number of families in the slum, Pasha hopes the centre becomes sustainable in two years, giving residents regular access to a general practitioner, dermatologist and other specialists.
To kick off, he needs 35 lakh INR, generating 20 lakhs from the community and 15 externally. More than the funding, Pasha said organizations like his need mentorship. Kriya Sangh previously partnered with Bhumi, a non profit platform helping the youth serve society, in 2005. Through the partnership, Kriya Sangh attended seminars on communication and problem solving.
“We aren’t well qualified or financially well-off,” he said. “There are so many organizations in the world that want to help us, but we haven’t reached till there. So to reach them, we need someone [to guide us]. It’s not that we need our cause to be public so we can get lots of money…this work needs recognition.”
In due time, Pasha wants Kriya Sangh to become a platform to not only help Rasalpoora, but also prepare the changemakers of tomorrow in the slum and outside of it. “We need to ready social, not political, leaders who build their leadership on service through health or livelihood projects,” he explained. “This [should be] a long term, self sustainable, generational changing project.”
About the author: Archana is an independent journalist, creative writing trainer and a forever wanderer. She is the creator of the Wandering Local, a project exploring the impact of home on individual identity. You can read her work at wanderinglocal.com and follow her on Instagram at @thewanderinglocal.