What does it mean to live a few kilometres away from the biggest dam in your region but not have any of its water in your village? Ask the villagers of Paithan, for whom the administration's inexplicable water economics hurts more than the drought almost every year.
Paithan, to the world outside, is home to the famous Paithani saree that Maharashtrian brides desire in their trousseau; Paithan is also home to the Jayakwadi dam, one of the biggest dams in Maharashtra. The proximity of the dam underscores the irony of their water woes.
A major part of Paithan's vast rural belt, a few kilometres away from the dam, doesn't get water from this dam. Instead, ironically, water from the Jayakwadi dam is carried to areas far away from the dam: Aurangabad city, neighbouring district of Jalna and even Parbhani, lying 208 km away.
The dam, with a width of nearly 10 km, is one of the biggest in central Maharashtra. It can store up to 2,170.94 million cubic metres of water.
Despite this, villages around the dam itself are dry. This skewed distribution perplexes locals who ask the obvious question: why, at least some water from the Jayakwadi dam cannot be routed to their villages that regularly witness drought-like conditions. Says Sunil Rathod, an ex-sarpanch of the Tekdi tanda village, a hamlet in the Paithan district, "We are a few kilometres away from the dam, but are forced to depend on wells and bore wells for our daily supply of water."
Locals said that a village in the area can get water from the dam if it enjoys some political backing. For instance, Dongaon, next to Tekdi tanda, has direct pipelines from the dam.
Rajiv Shinde, tehsildar, admits that the lack of water to Paithan's villages is a problem, but says that such villages are covered by 'individual schemes' — a bureaucratic term to mean steps taken to ensure water supply to a single village.
At Tekri tanda, however, even this term is a fig leaf. In the name of a scheme, the government has laid a pipeline from a well, a kilometre and a half away. Nothing wrong, except that it's a 0.5 inch pipeline, supplying barely enough for a few families.
Tekdi tanda's anguish is shared by most villages around the dam, which have been deprived of the water that they think is rightfully theirs. Porgaon, a village with 1,800 residents, has to depend on one government well, which is drying up fast.
Pradeep Purandare, a retired associate professor from the Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI) in Aurangabad said, "Villages that have a strong political network can draw more than what they need, while those lacking a network are left to fend for themselves."