Last year Taluna panchayat of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh was adjudged open defecation free (ODF) but water scarcity has dragged villagers back to the field. Water scarcity is so acute that some villagers had to sell their cattle. Taluna and Anni panchayats, 120km from Shimla, have around 20 big and small villages, all struggling with acute water scarcity. Even the irrigation and public health (IPH) departments admitted that villagers are facing water scarcity.
Satish Kumar of Chowki village said that the public toilets are dry. “We are forced to defecate in open as taps have run dry and there is no source of water nearby,” he said.
“We are left with no options. We hardly get water for drinking, and a lot of water is required to keep the toilets clean,” said Gulab Thakur of Taluna.
Deepika Sharma, pradhan of Taluna panchayat said she was happy when the panchayat was adjudged ODF. “Now things are not well. We are facing acute water shortage. How can I ask one not to defecate in open when there is no water at home,” she said, adding, “We have approached every office demanding regular water supply but the efforts have been futile. I have met the state’s irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes, she assured me of a solution but there has been no change in the situation.”
Around six farmers have sold their cattle since it was difficult to quench their thirst. “You give me the solution. We barely meet our domestic water needs. I can’t let the cattle roam on the roads or let them die without water, that’s why I had to sell my cow,” Gulab Katoch of Taluna said, adding, “I had two cows, sold one of them. If the water crisis continue, I will have no option but to sell the second cow.”
He adds, there are 7-8 more villagers who sold their cattle. If the situation remains unchanged or worsens in months to come, they will have to migrate to other places. Nishaani, Mattal and Chowki are the worst hit villages of Taluna Panchayat.
Sub-divisional officer, IPH, BS Thakur said, “Taluna and Anni Panchayats are facing water scarcity and we are trying to provide them water despite all difficulties. Existing scheme ‘Gada Gharat to Tikrajaan’ is being upgraded and soon the regular water supply will be ensured.”
Another IPH officer, requesting anonymity, said one scheme was specially meant for these villages located at the tail end of the old scheme. “The department provided water connections to those who already had it.”