Community Correspondent Dasarathi Behera shares how he got a working hand pump for 60 families:
Makdiasahi is a tiny village in Deogarh, Odisha. The community comprises of about sixty families, most of whom earned their living by braiding & selling ropes made from material sourced from the ample forests of northern Odisha. Over the years however, depleting resources meant the community soon found themselves without a means of survival. The State of Odisha then stepped in to provide them with a small, unused plot of land. It guaranteed them access to various welfare schemes as per constitutional provisions and all was well in their world again.
A few years into living in this shiny new village provided by the State, the sad state of affairs began to show. While there were homes, there were no jobs. There was a primary school, but no secondary school. There were tube wells, but no water. The villagers, now struggling to learn other ways to earn their livelihood, found themselves wasting time waiting for water.
Dasarathi Behera is a quiet man who was almost missed out in the trawl for Community Correspondents in Odisha. However, in the hullabaloo of interviews & group discussions, his silence stood out. The successful juggling of a long history of activism, combined with an ongoing attempt to finance and complete his education found Dasarathi at the threshold of the IndiaUnheard Recruitment Camp. His dignified eloquence was met with silent respect & a sure shot at becoming Community Correspondent from Deogarh. As he was traveling across Deogarh meeting communities while filming his first issue video, Dasarathi came across Makdiasahi village about 25 kilometers from his home. Moved by their three year-long wait for water, he decided to help them.
“Deogarh is a small new district of Odisha. Our people are very poor, and mostly uneducated. Even though they hadn’t had water from that tube well for three years, they neither had the time nor the awareness of how to go about asking for help. When I told them about IndiaUnheard, they were keen to see if this could work. I spent a day or two speaking with all the villagers. I found that of the three tube wells, one was rightfully reserved for the small primary school. While the school authorities allowed villagers to use the tube well, it also meant classes were disturbed, or the daily chores of households had to be coordinated with the school timings.
The only other working tube well was a little far out for a section of the community. What is the point of having a scheme to ensure clean drinking water if the mechanisms to provide this water don’t work! I have worked on similar issues for several years so I had no hesitation in approaching the Rural Water Supply & Sanitation (RWSS) Department. I met the Senior Engineer, Krishna Chandra Pradhan & described this problem. He immediately called up the relevant employees, and asked them to fix this.
I’ve made a few videos now, and I found that officials often don’t know about on-ground realities. Mr. Pradhan was most pleased to discuss this issue, and even discussed possible solutions with me. After speaking with his other colleagues, he even informed me that they intended to install a new tube well, because the old, defunct one had high iron content in the water.
Life is different, now that I am a Community Correspondent. People call me to come & film footage. The media is far more attentive to the needs of the people when I inform them of these issues. Lokmat, MBC TV, (local media houses) have carried bytes by me now. It’s a lot of power I wield with this camera. The way I approach issues has also changed. While making this video I didn’t think to take the people with me to approach administration. I knew they would have to give up a day’s worth of wages to stand by me. Now, my mindset has changed. I know that the community needs to be aware of these processes too. They need to initiate this call for change. Unless they agree to bear this baton, it is not going to be possible for me to do this alone. Deogarh desperately needs schemes like education & health to be properly implemented for our people to have better living conditions. Now that communities are supporting me, I am convinced that together we can change everything.
References: Rural Drinking Water Supply.
Rural Development Annual Report 2011 – 2012
Rural Development Report – January 2014
Written by Radhika