By Ashutosh Singh and NP Singh
Water is a valuable resource and means health, hygiene, dignity, and productivity. For marginalized communities in Chhata block of Mathura district in Uttar Pradesh, access to sweet water was still a question for sixteen households of the Valmiki community (a scheduled caste) residing in village Ladpur (total 600 households). They had to depend on other water sources in the village after the well in their neighborhood was contaminated, not in use, and abandoned. In rural villages, the community depends on wells for a reliable supply of sweet water for various uses in the absence of a piped water supply.
Since women in the family are responsible for bringing water from the source irrespective to distance, Valmiki women had to wait for water until everyone else in the village was done fetching water from the regular water source in the village used by the upper caste people. This was not only discriminatory but also led to loss of productive hours.
During the baseline survey before the commencement of a CSR-supported project implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation in fifteen villages of Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh since October 2021, the foundation teams identified that many of the villages did not have access to sweet water. In Ladpur village, the water woes of the Valmiki community stood out, as they didn’t have a proper source of sweet water and they faced discrimination.
The project team met with the panchayat elected representative, Mr. Harishchand (village head), to discuss the issue; however, he expressed his inability to do anything because of lack of development funds. The team then proposed to undertake the rejuvenation of the well in the Valmiki community if they received support from the panchayat to help raise community contributions for the intervention. The village head assured full cooperation for the work. The team, together with the panchayat, organized a community meeting so that the problem and its resolution could be discussed with village members. Later a Village Development Committee (VDC) was formed to assess needs, ensure smooth implementation and monitoring of project interventions, and resolve conflicts, if any. Within days, Rs 8,750 was collected from the community, which was kept for the maintenance and upkeep of the well.
A few residents of the village couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. The well repair, cleaning, and maintenance work started in the third week of February 2022, and finished by the second week of March. People were elated to see their own well.
A resident, Mrs. Anju Devi, says, “Now we don’t need to depend on others for water. The well is located close to our houses and is covered with iron net on the top and tin shed roof, which helps in keeping the well clean from domestic animals and garbage.” She added, “We are very happy and thankful to the project team for doing this.”
(Ashutosh is assistant program lead, Agriculture Development and NP Singh is program lead, Agriculture Development)