Community Correspondent Mamata Patra has become a minor local celebrity in the community of Rairakhol block. Her latest video and efforts have resulted in getting the tube well in Bansajhala Village, Samabalpur District fixed.
After four years of frustration and water troubles 800 families (4000 people) can enjoy the benefits of clean drinking water in their homes. Mamata tells us how this unusually quick impact unfolded:
“I had actually gone to Bansajhala to do some research for a story I was doing on health facilities. While walking around I noticed that despite the fact that there was a hand pump people seemed to be getting water from far away.
The women told me that the motor of the village hand pump had gone bust four years ago, the pipes too had disintegrated. The residents had made repeated requests to the council to get the hand pump fixed but nothing came of it. I pulled out my camera, explained to the people what I did with Video Volunteers and started filming.
The people in this village primarily depend on agriculture and daily wage work for their incomes. The women had been most affected by the water shortage as they were the ones who had to do all the worrying and heavy lifting. With the small farms drying up they had all started working in neighbouring areas as wage workers. They would come back only in the evening and if they were lucky the hand pump in the Auxiliary Midwife Nurse's compound would still be open.
When I was filming the video in February 2013, this compound had been shut for a few months as the ANM worker had been transferred and the new one hadn’t arrived yet. Things were pretty desperate at the time and I hoped that my video would make a difference.
Though supportive, the village elders provided a healthy dose of scepticism for the work I was doing.
‘So many people have come taken photos. The babus come here look around and do nothing. What will you achieve with another photo?’ they asked.
It was my job to get them together. The ‘call to action’ of my video was directed to the Sub divisional Officer of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Department. A few days after finishing the video I took it to him to show him what was happening in his jurisdiction.
Of course I was worried about how he would receive the video. Would anything happen? How long will it take? If doesn’t work out, what will I tell the community? My head reeled with these questions but I knew I had to give it a shot. It all worked out in the end.
‘We are thankful to you for highlighting this issue. I want more people in the media to highlight these issue so that we can fix them’ said Chittaranjan Sahoo, the SDO.
He told me that he had not been told about this problem by the village council. It became evident that it was not just the pipes and motor of the hand pump rotting—the whole system was defunct.
The SDO started work in 2 days. They soon found that a bore-well would have to be dug because the low water level would be an issue in the summer months. The village got together and decided on a piece of land that would be used for the purpose.
As I went to Bansajhala to film the impact video, the digging work was almost complete. Along with this, a new tube well was fixed in the neighbouring Musakata village. The happiness was palpable in the air.
This was the second impact I have worked on. As I try to work on other issues in the neighbouring regions I am aware that such a fast turnover between making an issue video and getting impact is rare. This would never have been possible if the community had not stood by me and the SDO had not been receptive to the video made.
In the IndiaUnheard videos we make, we often highlight corruption and inefficiency. There is a case of corruption at the village level in this case, but the fact that other authorities were so co-operative is very heartening. And this is what I want all of you to notice—that in an otherwise dark world, all is not lost.”
A group of migrant labourers had to walk several hundred kilometres and spend days in a Madhya Pradesh quarantine centre without any facilities.