Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 37, Tuesday February 17, 2004






Special feature
Life in the Mohila hostel

After completing her masters degree in Economics from Rajshahi University, Nargis Fateema has come to Dhaka for better job opportunity. She needed a place to stay and knew very little about renting houses. She did not have any close relatives in the city either, so she stayed at one of the DMCH hostel with a distant relative for two months. Then she had to move to a friend's house, then in another friend's uncle's house, and later on she rented a sublet room. She felt absolutely helpless when she was being tossed like a ball from one place to another. During all this time she tried for a seat in the Kormojibi Mohila hostel at Nilkhet. "I visited the hostel officials in every 15 days. Every time I went, there was no good news for me. It took me six months to get a seat in the hostel." Fateema recalled her suffering when we went to visit the hostel to write this article. She is now a junior officer at the Pubali Bank and a resident in the Nilkhet hostel.

We spoke with several residents, including Fateema. After our brief visit we got the impression that life in the kormojibi mohila hostel is quite a painful saga. The process of becoming a resident moves on very slowly. Here is how it goes. First requirement to become a resident of the hostel is that you have to be a career woman, earning at least Tk 6,000. You have to collect the prescribed application form, showing your appointment.

You might or might not be lucky in this case. Sometimes the hostel authority refuses to supply the form, showing the cause of non-vacancy in the hostel. However, our sources reveal that the non-vacancy excuse is merely a hoax. If you have any 'powerful uncle' then the process works very smoothly. Otherwise you will have to wait for a long, long time to become a resident. That is exactly what happened to Fateema.
Next part of the process is very peculiar. With the form you must submit the signature and photograph of a local guardian, a health certificate, names of three relatives and an account of your relationship with them. These three relatives will be the only people to get the permission to visit you. When you are done with submitting the form, as we have mentioned earlier the long waiting period begins.

The hostel has two building, one 10 storeyed and the other one is 5 storeyed. Cost of living is cheap comparing to the cost of private hostels. Monthly charge of a seat in a four-seated room will be Tk460, in three seated rooms it will be Tk475, in a two seated room the charge will be Tk700 and if you want a single room it will cost you Tk900. Getting a single room is quite hard. Women with higher salary and connection generally occupy these seats.

Besides the distribution of seats, there are some general complaints about the hostel. The major problem that the residents face is the water crisis. We've been informed that, "The water supply is not adequate".

Another major problem is that the hostel has no doctor for the residents. If anyone becomes ill "the hostel officials do not take any responsibility" told us one resident. Roommates are the only friends then. When anyone becomes sick "the authority usually insists on sending her home" she added.

Residents drink water directly from the tap. For all the girls living in the entire compound, there are only two gas burners, which makes it extremely difficult to boil water. There is no facility for recreation either except a television with no cable connection. "BTV is our only option, which can be very boring sometimes", complained some resident.

Regarding the complain about doctor, we contacted the ministry of women and children affairs, responsible for every function of the hostel. They told LS that; "There was a part time doctor few years back from now. For the lack of fund the service was suspended. Now we are thinking over the matter again."

The ministry officials also informed us that two more hostels are on the way. One of them is in Khilgaon named Begum Rokeya Kormojibi Mohila hostel. Just recently the construction of this hostel ended and started distributing forms. Another one named Nowab Faijunnisa mohila hostel is still under construction at Tolarbag, Mirpur, which will end around June 2004.

Other than government hostels there are a few private hostels. Mahila Shamity runs a very neat hostel at the Baily road named Business and Professional Women's Club. Seat rent in a three-seated room will be Tk600; in two-seated rooms it is Tk700. This hostel has little apartments with toilet and kitchen. Charge for the apartment is Tk1200.

Among all the other private hostels Nibedika is the largest. It has two branches one is in Green road and the other one in Monipuripara. Monthly cost is Tk1800-2000 in this hostel. Mahmuda Mohila hostel at Sheikh Shaheb bazaar, Azimpur will charge around Tk1800 per month. Another one named Nikita mohila hostel situated at Monipuri Para will charge Tk2000 monthly.

Development of all these hostel proves that the situation is heading towards a brighter future. In the forthcoming days professional single women will not have to go through the misery that Fateema experienced.

By Shahnaz Parveen

The Dwelling duels with pollutants

Home. It is not just a four-letter word but more like a sphere within the spheres that ushers the true sense of belonging and provides a comfort and certainty that almost completes the life. However, the notion of "home sweet home" may stumble as despite all the security and amenities, modern homes may not be the safest place that guaranties a healthy environment for its occupants. Although relatively new phenomena in the environment scene but this indoor pollution is indeed a matter of great concern since indoor pollutants can make the entire dwelling a dangerous place to live in as scientists have found out that the concentration of indoor pollutants are 2-5 times and occasionally 100 times higher than that of the outdoor pollutants. Biological contaminants inside homes are one of the most detrimental indoor pollutants of all that pose a great risk towards the health of the occupants.
Biological contaminants include microbial cells such as bacteria and viruses and in addition to these are fungal spores, protozoan, algae, pollen, dust mites and molds. The majority of the biological pollutants are found indoors however some are of outdoor origin. Pets and insects are also potential sources of some harmful indoor pollutants. There are many people out there who owns pets. It is quite understandable, as pets not only act as noble companions but also occasionally acts as protectors of their masters. However despite benefiting in many ways pets are the latent sources of some disturbing indoor pollutants like pollen, dander and other allergens all which generates from tiny scales of their hair, skin and excreta. The biological pollutants travel through the air and are often invisible. And this later fact makes it more dangerous because as a result of being invisible these pollutants are usually inhaled, either alone or by attaching themselves to the particles of dust or then entering the respiratory system. Cockroach, a common pest in every household that are found in kitchen cabinets, kitchen floor dust, bathrooms and basements, also contributes to the indoor pollution since cockroach allergens introduced to the environment through feces and saliva also present a major risk factor for asthma.

What makes the indoors biological pollutants so dangerous is the fact that these pollutants are very common and considered as inevitable indoor air pollutants over which control seems very unlikely. Major sources include places that are vulnerable to microorganism because fungi and bacteria find nourishment in inadequately maintained air-circulated systems and in dirty washrooms. When biological agents are allowed to flourish in poorly maintained ventilation systems, the result is severe health problems and physical discomforts that causes both infectious and noninfectious diseases. Exposure to biological indoor pollutants can cause sneeze, trigger allergic reactions, rashes, watery eyes, hoarseness , coughing, dizziness, lethargy, breathing problems and digestive problems. The categories of people who are most susceptible to allergic problems caused by indoor pollution are the people with asthma. Since asthma patients have very sensitive airways their exposure to various allergens and irritants causes breathing difficulty for them. Also people who have breathing problems and allergies are likely to be more sensitive to airborne biological agents.

Although indoor air pollutants are inevitable but they are however, controllable. At first the moisture in the house must be controlled . Moisture can invade home through many sources including leaks and seepage and even through some appliances. As a result it is suggested to keep the air-conditioner filters clean and replace them regularly. Another breeding grounds for biological agents is home humidifier. To control the breeding it is essential that it is properly maintained and cleaned. Ventilation system is another source that needs proper management since if poorly maintained ventilation systems cultivate the population of biological agents. Regular cleaning and disinfecting the parts of ventilating, heating and cooling systems prevents the build up of biological particles. It is also suggested to air out the home regularly because fresh air lowers the particle content in the indoor air. Controlling the dust, washing the bedding in hot water, use of synthetic bedding are some other suggestions to control animal dander and dust mites.

In the case of controlling animal allergen concentration in the home, the only proven method is to remove the animal. It is almost impossible, though as many get really attached to their pet. As a result , some recommends washing the pet properly and regularly and establishing a "safe room" with no pet access . In order to give the "safe room" real success owners may also include other regulation like no carpeting, no air filter and no use of protein denaturants.

Although one would never be able to get rid off the indoor biological pollutants totally but there are ways to control their concentration. Regular cleaning and proper maintenance of the sources of biological pollutants will keep the effects at minimum and can ensure a home that is environmentally sound and echoes a healthy vibe that keeps its occupants energetic and reinvigorated.

By Obaidur Rahman



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