By Counterview Desk
A large number of villagers in Gujarat are facing unprecedented water crisis due to poor rains. The brunt of the natural calamity has clearly fallen on the Dalits. A recent visit by Kirit Rathod, a senior activist of Navsarjan Trust, Ahmedabad, to Panva village of Patdi taluka, district Surendranagar, has suggested how this is happening. According to Rathod, there are 45 Dalit households in the village, and they are being discriminated against in the distribution of water.
They have been “allocated” a well, whose water is simply undrinkable. They have to necessarily depend on another well, from which they are not allowed to sink buckets and pull out water, like the higher caste women don. The Dalit women are at the mercy of the higher caste women for drinking water from the well. Unlike the well meant for Dalits, this well is cleaner and its water is drinkable.
Rathod held several meetings with villagers, and separately met Dalits of the village, who mainly consist of Vankars (40 households) and Valmikis (five households). Dalit women, who go and fetch water for their households, participated in the meeting in large numbers. They complained that while there is a pipeline supplying Narmada water to their village, the Narmada water is supplied from a nearby village “quite infrequently”.
The Dalits, whose houses are situated at the fag end of the village, get water for just just 15-20 minutes, more often than not just once a fortnight. This is because the higher caste persons have connected the main Narmada pipeline with electric motor pumps to suck out Narmada water and store it as and when it is supplied.