For 22 parched districts, every drop of water counts

  • P Srinivasan, Hindustan Times, Nagaur/Ajmer
  • Updated: May 17, 2016 22:54 IST
Baju bathes her child in a large metal pan to save water which is later used to feed cattle at Badi Khatu in Nagaur. (Himanshu Vyas)

Baju bathes her 7-year-old son in a metal pan and doesn’t use soap because she will give the bathwater to cattle.

“Cattle will not drink it if there’s soap,” the 30-year-old woman says as she washes her son in 41 degrees Celsius at Badi Khatu, a town 60 kilometres from Nagaur in Rajasthan.

Her family orders 2-3 water tankers every month at `300 each for drinking and cooking. She stores the water in plastic drums and jerricans (large containers). If the tanker doesn’t come on time, she borrows water from her neighbour living a kilometre away. She returns the borrowed quantity after tankers arrive.

This family of ironsmiths doesn’t run a workshop. Baju’s husband Baku Ram (35) is a daily-wage labourer and she looks after their four children at home, bathing them on alternate days.

Twenty-two districts of Rajasthan are reeling under drinking water crisis. Officials claim tankers are sent to 1,056 habitations in 748 villages of the districts, but the supply is not enough to meet the needs. Locals buy more tankers and pay for the water.

The Centre sanctioned `1,345 crore to Rajasthan on Saturday to tackle drought and water scarcity after chief minister Vasundhara Raje met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The chief minister briefed the Prime Minister on drinking water woes in the state. Modi suggested that traditional water-storage structures, such as ‘bavdis’, be revived in a big way with people’s participation, said a report by Press Trust of India quoting a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.

Bavdis are wells or ponds in which the water may be reached by descending a set of steps.

Raje told Modi that bavdis were being revived in Nagaur district to tackle water crisis. But Baku Ram, who earns `120 a day, struggles to save `50 to order a tanker once a week.

The story is no different for villagers of Beer in Ajmer district. A dam, which was a water source for the villagers, is dry for last 20 years.

“Government water supply comes once in five days and we are forced to buy tankers,” said Alladin Khan (63) as he took a drag of a bidi under a tree.

Villagers of Sanod, 30kms from Ajmer, get water from Bisalpur dam through a pipeline.

“The pipeline to the village from the main Bisalpur line is broken at places, therefore water does not reach the village with pressure. And supply also comes on alternate days,” said Prabhu Lal (60), a villager. “Till date no PHED engineer has come to the village and even the sarpanch resides in Ajmer.”

The situation is grim in most parts of the parched Rajasthan. The Centre has given the state funds to tackle the crisis – `911.64 crore under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), `827.25 crore as central share of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for 2015-16 and `434.25 crore as first instalment of SDRF for 2016-17. But Baju still cannot afford to bath her sons with soap.

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