Monday, June 02, 2014

Ninety Dalit families face discrimination in distribution of drinking water, alleges Gujarat Dalit rights NGO

Will the CM act?
By Our Representative
With summer at its height, and increasing number of villages facing water shortage in Gujarat, facts have come to light which suggest that backward communities, particularly the Dalits, have once again begun to face the brunt of the shortage. In a letter written to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, Kirit Rathod, programme director, Navsarjan Trust, a Dalit rights NGO, operating from Ahmedabad, has said that in village Samosar, tuluka Muli, district Surendranagar, 90 families of the Dalit community “face extreme discrimination” at the hands of dominant caste persons, controlling village local body, in the distribution of drinking water.
Asking the chief minister to “immediately act”, Rathod in his letter said, the village has for long suffered from acute shortage of water, and things become particularly worse during summer. “Currently, water is being supplied to the Samosar village from the nearby Umarda village panchayat”, the letter says, adding, “However, as for the distribution of water, it is the job of the Samosar village panchayat, which is where all the mischief is done.”
“The problem has become especially acute because most of the sources for obtaining drinking water in the village are situated in the non-Dalit areas. As for the Dalits, as they live in one corner of the village, they are unable to access any water. There is a source of drinking water in the Dalit area, but here water is generally available for a very short duration. Often, Dalits have to wait for several days to access water”, the letter said.
The result is, said Rathod, the Dalits have to go walk a kilometre in order to access water from a well. Currently, when the marriage season is on, the Dalits have to buy water, which is a very costly affair, as most Dalits are wage labourers. “The situation has continued for several years, and despite representations to local authorities, there is no solution. Things have become particularly worse this seaon”, Rathod alleged.
Asking the Gujarat government to act urgently, the letter wants to state officials to provide water to Dalits via tankers free of cost. The letter said, “Immediate action should be taken to ensure that Narmada waters are available to the village, with clear instructions to the village panchayat not to discriminate against the Dalits while distributing water. There should be separate bore and an overhead tank for the Dalit households, where water could be stored.”
This is the second major representation by the Dalit rights NGO to the Gujarat government this season to end discrimination against the backward community for the provision of water. Earlier, following a representation to the state government and a report in Counterview (click HERE to read), the officials of the state social justice and empowerment department directed the district administration, Mehsana, to begin legal proceedings against the dominant sections of Lunasan village of Kadi taluka for consciously barring Dalits from accessing water.
Finding that the complaint by the NGO – which said that the dominant caste people often breached the water pipeline in the Dalit area – had weight, a letter to the district development official, Mehsana, and the district backward class welfare officer, Mehsana, said the officials must act swiftly to start proceedings against the high-caste persons under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. The official notes that the villagers may be forced to migrate from the village if they are not provided drinking water.
Last year during summer, the NGO in association with the Pani Hak Rakshak Samiti, found that the areas around Ahmedabad, in five talukas of Ahmedabad district – Dholka, Dhandhuka, Sanand, Bavla and Viramgam – there was acute discrimination in the provision of drinking water to the Dalits. “Dalit women have to particularly suffer, as they have to walk long distances in order to get water. They are unable to access water at the source nearby due to untouchability practicies”, said a report prepared on the basis of the survey.
The survey identified 1,200 families of the five talukas which had to particularly suffer because of untouchability in accessing water. “Untouchability prevails in accessing water at common bathing spots, public spots meant to wash clothes, community taps, private and panchayat bores, handpumps, common village wells and ponds”, the survey report said.

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