Community Correspondent Shambhulal Khatik believes that online complaint portals can go a long way in ensuring government accountability and transparency.
Far from the tourist-heartland of urban Udaipur, women in a remote village in the district were walking for up to 1-3 kilometres in search of water, through dry and hilly terrain, everyday. Their village, Selaguda, had only one handpump which had been spouting contaminated water for six years, and two defunct water tanks which they were expected to share with neighbouring villages.
The residents of Selaguda reached out to Shambhulal on their own as he had earlier made a video on the lack of electricity and his work had ensured that all families got an electricity connection.
In this case, he first made a quick MoJo video (Mobile Journalism video) on his smartphone, and then made a longer video speaking to the women and men in the village about the problems that they face.
Shambhulal also held a meeting with the village community to think of ways to address the problem and simultaneously registered a complaint on Rajasthan Sampark, the state government’s online grievance redressal portal. He also called the Public Health Engineering Department, and the very next day officials from the department came to collect some water samples to test. The official promised to either replace the handpump or enable supply from the then defunct water tanks at the Panchayat (village council).
After that, the community visited the Sarpanch (village head) and spoke about the problem, giving him a written complaint. Soon after, the Sarpanch arranged a pipeline supply from a water tank in a neighbouring village, and initiated the arrangement of a new water tank in Selaguda. The new tank has been functional for a month now.
Shambhulal, who has filed multiple complaints on Rajasthan Sampark, believes that the medium is an effective way of monitoring government facilities and claims. “It (the portal) cannot be seen as an alternative to other forms of activism but it is definitely an additional means, and should be utilised. I have also taught other community members to use it”, he says.
“You registered a complaint on our behalf and also brought us together to work on this,” says Lalibai, a resident of the village. According to Shambhulal, almost 40 people from the village went to the Panchayat office with him to register the complaint, seeing the problem as one that affects the entire community. He also hopes that women and girls in the village will be saved the drudgery of fetching water and carrying out other household chores single-handedly.
Video by Community Correspondent Shambhulal Khatik
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team