69 years have passed since first democratic government took over in the country but a Bhaderwah village is still without proper water supply. And ironically, the village is dominated by people belonging to the schedule caste (SC) community.
No potable water supply is what you hear when you ask people in this Bhaderwah village about their grievances. They are reeling under severe water crisis and have no option but to trek the hills in dense forest to fetch the unhygienic water for their day-to-day needs. They have to drink from this source.
Located in dense coniferous forest, Dandi-Duggi village in Linga Panchayat of Bhaderwah Tehsil consists of nearly 2 dozen mud houses. Women folk who work mostly as labourers have no other option but to trek treacherous terrain to fetch water for daily use from the only natural source available. Even for fetching this water, they have to wait in long queues for hours for their turn to collect their daily supply.
This is the only choice they have, as the successive governments have virtually forgotten this village. It has no potable water supply despite several centrally sponsored flagship schemes especially for downtrodden sections and those living in far off villages being in-place.
“I got married in this village last year, and during this one year, I spent most of my time trekking up and down hill to fetch the water for daily use. It takes about 2 hours to get 10 liters of water. We move in groups as the water source is in the thick Forest and we are scared of being attacked by wild animals since our cattle are attacked almost as a matter of routine,” said Sumana Devi (19) wife of Bablu Kumar of Dandi village in Linga Panchayat.
“We have to fetch water at least 4 times a day. This is not only time consuming and tiresome but very scary as well,” said Sumana. The villagers claimed that the groundwater has become toxic as there is a high incidence of cholera, diarrhea, typhoid in addition to Hepatitis and other physical abnormalities among villagers.
Pawan Kumar (50) of Village Dandi said that they are daily wage laborers and most of their earning goes in buying medicines. “Since we are using unsafe drinking water, we fall ill off and on. We approached Public Health Engineering (PHE) authorities several times in last 20 years to get water connections as three pipe lines go from our village, but they out-rightly refused with the plea that this is not meant for us.
Pawan added that their only fault is that they are poor and belong to lower cast that’s why despite 70 years of Independence, they are still denied access to this basic needs. “Prime Minister’s ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan’ and Rural Sanitation Programme in our village is a cruel joke as we are not getting enough water to drink or cook and in given circumstances how can we even think of using washrooms,” said Rishi Kumar (37) of village Dandi – Duggi.
Young generation of this village seems to be the worst sufferers as some of the students have to leave their studies because of the paucity of water. “No one believed that we don’t have water at our village. I became so frustrated that I left my studies after 8th and will never go to school again,” said Priya Devi (15) daughter of Bal Krishan.
On being asked, Executive Engineer PHE Doda Abdul Wahid Zargar said,”I recently came to know about the problem of this particular hamlet. We will provide them with potable water supply as soon district plan gets approved. In the meantime, I will send my field staff there to see the possibility of making some temporary arrangement.” However, he failed to respond when asked why their department knew nothing about this hamlet.