The cry for water reaches Jantar Mantar

Chitra Narayanan Jhansi | Updated on January 27, 2018

Lalita Dubey from drought-hit Badona Guggar in Bundelkhand along with Sakhi. Both are Jal Sahelis, water activists in their village at Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh KAMAL NARANG

Water refugees at Jhansi railway station. Photo: Kamal Narang   -  Business Line

Lalitha Dubey and her Jal Saheli. Photo: Kamal Narang   -  Business Line

Drought affected villagers pour into Delhi demanding a Water Law

Forty seven year old Lalita Dubey from drought affected Badona Guggar in Lalitpur district, Bundelkhand is readying to board the train to Delhi with 25 other people from her village tonight. “Awaaz uthane jaa rahe hai (we are going to raise our voice),” says the demure looking Dubey, head covered with her saree pallu, who along with 11 other women in her village has turned into a fiery water activist or Jal Saheli.

From Kadesara Khurd, another 40 villagers are headed towards the Capital. Disheartened by the repeated water crisis in the area, over 2000 people from villages near Jhansi are pouring into Delhi to take part in a Jal Satyagraha. Their demand - the enactment of a Water Law.

For 46 year old manual labourer Basant Lal from Kadisera the trip to Delhi is to spur some action from the government and stop more villagers from becoming water refugees. Hundreds have fled his village leaving their belongings and livestock behind. The locked doors in his village are stark testimony to the havoc wrought by failed crops and depleting ground water.

From 8 am to 5pm on 5th May, thousands of people will gather at Jantar Mantar to express their anguish about their waterless plight. Over the last several months water conservationist Rajender Singh has been mobilizing villagers across Maharashtra, Bihar, Bundelkhand, Karnataka and Rajasthan to join the Jal Satyagraha in Delhi.

"Many from Maharashtra and Bihar have already arrived in Delhi," says Sanjay Singh of NGO Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan which has motivated villagers from over 500 hamlets in Bundelkhand to join in, and created Jal Sahelis in these places. He says that a water law is the need of the hour in view of the serious food scarcity in several regions precipitated by lack of water. “We want water sources in drought prone areas to be identified, demarcated and notified as protected zones. If somebody exploits these areas, it should become a punishable offence,” he says, calling also for a revival of traditional water systems.

Singh says that the river conservation act is a central one but water is typically a state subject. We want this to be made concurrent, he says.

“A water law is needed as there is no respect for our water sources whether canals, pond, or wells,” says water expert Indira Khurana, policy lead, resource scarcity at IPE Global, who will be apprising Members of Parliament on the seriousness of the issue. “There is a huge dependency on ground water in rural areas. Over 85 per cent of rural water needs is through ground water,” says Khurana, stressing on the need for water harvesting measures to recharge ground water.

Meanwhile, as Dubey arrives here, she is apprehensive whether the Jal Satyagraha will manage to create a ripple in Delhi or will it get drowned out by other priorities?

Published on May 04, 2016

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