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Gujarat Dalits in Surendranagar district's rural areas deprived of Narmada water: Letter to chief minister

By Our Representative
In a letter to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, a well-known Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust’s activist, Prakashbhai Jayantibhai Parmar, has given the instance of two villages of Surendranagar district to point towards how, despite availability of Narmada waters, the Dalits are being deprived of drinking water.
Pointing out how in the two villages – Gedigam and Jambugam – the Dalits are being discriminated against in the distribution of Narmada waters, Parmar said, “While the water gathers in the village drinking water tanks, the responsibility rests with the local village panchayat to distribute it.”
He adds, “While other sections of the population do get water, the pipelines leading to the Dalit area are several years old and they do not have enough capacity to deliver water to the Dalit families, who live a segregated locality.”
“The Dalit families have to dig seven to eight feet deep holes in order to obtain water from the pipeline”, the letter says, calling the two village panchayats’ attitude as “discriminatory” and “amounting to untouchability.”
The letter says, “With the summer approaching, the Dalit families are obliged to buy water from private tankers. Sometimes, the families have to use dirty water from the nearby pond. As a result, there have been complaints of Dalit family members falling ill.”
The letter says that the Dalit families have made frequent complaints to the local officials, including the taluka mamlatdar of Limdi, under which the two villages are situated, and the government engineer looking after water supply, apart from local village officials and the village sarpanch.
“These complaints have made little difference”, the letter says, adding, “No one has cared to begin work for fresh pipelines towards the Dalit areas of the two villages.”
Demanding immediate provision of Narmada waters to the Dalit localities, the letter insists, “There should be a separate overhead tank for them under the provisions of the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP). Besides, the MLA and MP of the region should be asked to set aside their funds for the Dalits.”
The letters have been addressed to the chief minister amidst Navsarjan Trust, in a statement, insisting that the Gujarat government has not been spending funds allocated under the SCSP in the state budget.
Kirit Parmar, senior activist of Navsarjan Trust said, an analysis of the budget for the financial years 2013-14 and 2014-15 suggests that there was a provision of around Rs 600 crore for creating Narmada-based water supply mechanism for the Dalit areas during the two years.
“Despite this provision”, he says, “The Dalit families in Gujarat villages are deprived of Narmada waters, with the state government adopting an indifferent attitude towards them. Thus, in 2013-14, 62.78 per cent of the allocation (Rs 327.78 crore), and in 2014-15, 71.73 per cent of the allocation (Rs 361.47 crore) was spent for the Dalits.”

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