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Nomadic Community Deprived of Access to Safe Water

Women and girls across the world spend 200 million hours every day fetching water; what is worse is that in many cases, this water, often contaminated, only leads to disease.

Shivani, a young girl from Damoh, Madhya Pradesh, does not go to school. She spends her day performing household chores, which often includes a four kilometre to and fro trek to fetch water from the river. Both her parents work outside the house and are often sick, which only increases her burden of housework.

Shivani’s family belongs to the Jogi community, a nomadic community spread over parts of Madhya Pradesh, amongst other states. In Batiyagarh in Damoh, where Shivani lives, the community comprises about 50 families. Their homes have no piped water supply promised by the Nal Jal Yojana (piped water scheme) and there is no well or functioning handpump in the vicinity either. Left with only two options- tap water from other people’s homes and contaminated river water- most families consume water from the river as the former source is only available if there’s any water left after other households’ usage.  

As a result, disease is rampant; skin infections, stomach ailments, fevers, the residents have seen it all. But the other fallout is that girls like Shivani are losing out on education and the prospect of a better and dignified future.

Community Correspondent Artibai Valmiki’s video has a series of sequences where one sees women and girls fetching water. According to the UNICEF, women and girls across the globe spend 200 million hours fetching water everyday.

Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals aims at universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water. The first step is to ensure that basic water services are available at a 30-minute round trip, with the ultimate goal being provision of water in all homes. In Batiyagarh, however, even the former has not been taken care of as the closest source of water for the 50 Jogi households is a river and not a government-designated or constructed safe water source. The only handpump that the panchayat building has is defunct and the water pump was taken to another panchayat; the community doesn’t seem to know why.

The situation is so dire despite the central and the state governments running multiple programmes and schemes. The central government’s National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) aims to ensure access to water and a minimum quality of water to all rural persons, and piped water supply is the desirable means to achieve these goals.

The Madhya Pradesh government, like a few other state governments, also runs the Nal Jal Yojana. The households in Batiyagarh whose tap water the Jogi families sometimes access have also been given piped water under this scheme. The scheme’s website lists 480 panchayats in Damoh, of which 411 are registered under the scheme, and only 160 have been covered. The scheme is implemented by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department and the government has also roped in private contractors to ensure water supply under the scheme. Madhya Pradesh also received 5.72% of the NRDWP funds when the programme renewed in 2016, making it one of the top 10 states in terms of the amount received.

But none of these schemes and programmes seem to have touched the Jogi families of Damoh. Shivani, Rubi Bai and most other women of the community continue to go down to the rocky river bank almost everyday, risking their lives to fetch water. What is worse is that the water they get is only adding to their perils.

To ensure that the Jogi community in Damoh get access to safe water through piped water supply under the Nal Jal Yojana, call Shashi Bhushan from the PHE Department at +91-9098665262 and urge him to take action immediately.

Video by Community Correspondent Artibai Valmiki

Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team

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