The search for water in Jaipur
Ram Kumar Gupta queues up every morning before a community tap in his Bhatta Basti locality inside Jaipur's Walled City. After the long wait for his turn, he has just enough in his buckets for his family to drink. That's all until the next morning.
Public water distribution across large areas of the Walled City is running dry, save for a few community taps. "There used to be a trickle until April; now all we get is to hear a long sucking sound when we open our taps," Gupta said in May. And then situation just deteriorated since then.
Outside the Walled City, the scarcity problem is stark though maybe not as acute. But complications abound. In Kanwar Nagar, Ward 58, an old woman in Chelon Ka Mohalla stalks unwary passers-by. "My grand-daughter died. The dirty water killed her," she says in an empty, haunting voice.
Neighbours explain Rafiqan's three-year-old developed a severe colic and started vomiting one night. She was rushed to a local practitioner but died soon after. And Rafiqan's hoarse cries might have some truth.
The little water the taps let out is yellow and stinky. Residents know sewage from gutters leaks into supply lines, but there is nothing much they can do about it. In the poorer settlements, boiling and filtering are not common practices.
Elsewhere in the city and even in some of the better colonies like Bani Park and Shastri Nagar, water is changing perspectives, and ruffling tempers.
Rashid Khan Niazi, head of an extended joint-family, has come to doubt the virtues of living together. For the past two days, the taps in his large house on an MI Road by-lane are completely dry. "A water tanker last came two days back and there's no telling when it will show up again," he says grimly.
Other joint families too are facing the summer-time brunt. For Siddharth Pareek and his 30-member family in the busy Kishanpole Bazaar, mornings start with calculation and rationing. "Supply lasts for half-an-hour, in which we try to fill up our 100-litre tank. That makes for a little over 3 litres per head – cooking, drinking and washing included.
With daily life going awry over water, the latest demand by city residents – apart from that for better supply – has to do not with the Water Works but the Electricity department. "In our area, families with illegal boosters draw upto 3,000 litres in 3 hours," says Mansarovar resident Prashant Mehta. "The government should cut power when water is being supplied," he suggests.