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In drought-hit Marathwada, even the toilets have run dry and can’t be used

Radheshyam Jadhav Recently in Marathwada | Updated on May 17, 2019 Published on May 17, 2019

Many villages in parched regions of Maharashtra have achieved 100% construction of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but the majority of them remain unused due to water scarcity   -  Ajaj Shaikh

Scarcity forces women into the humiliating, and unsafe, wilderness

In the scorching heat of the summer, dozens of women from Pachod village in Aurangabad district struggle to catch every single drop of water from a pipeline that stretches from the Jayakwadi Dam to Jalna city.

In drought, this is the only source of water for the poor. After struggling for hours, some of them fill their pots, while others continue to mill around the pipeline. All water sources have gone dry, and villagers are dependent on pipeline leakages to quench their thirst.

Every drop is precious

“Every drop is worth a hundred rupees and we have to use it judiciously. This is just enough to drink and cook today,” one of them said. And for the toilet? “There is no water in the toilets constructed by the government. Even to use the toilets, we need water,” the women said.

Many villages in the parched regions of Maharashtra have achieved 100 per cent construction of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but the majority of the toilets remain unused due to water scarcity.

With just 3 per cent water left in Marathwada dams, 2,534 tankers are plying in 2,518 villages and hamlets in the region. Keeping her studies aside, Arati Golande, a class 11 student from Thergaon, has to spend hours to get a pot of water. Many borewells in Thergaon and Pachod went dry as far back as in December, and villagers wander for miles in search of water.

“You know the value of water only if you live here. You can’t just flush and waste 3-4 litres” Golande said. In Narsapur, women complained that the water provided by the tanker is too muddy to drink, but with no other option, they use the water for their bath and to wash kitchen utensils.

Physical attack

“It is not that we don’t want to use the toilets; in fact, it was the village women who insisted on constructing toilets. We want to use the toilets, but we can’t as we don’t have water,” women in Sarangpur village said.

The women say they have to wait till late night to relieve themselves as they can’t use the toilets. They admit they are under constant stress and fear of physical attack each time they go out in the dark.

“Sexual harassment and rape are a risk for many women who — without a household toilet — have to wait till nightfall,” said the Centre’s note about Swachh Bharat Mission.

It added: “Freed from the need to defecate in the open, they no longer have to suffer the indignity, humiliation and often verbal and physical abuse when relieving themselves”. However, the drought has once again exposed women to suffering and abuses.

Published on May 17, 2019
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