Skip to main content

In Covid-19 times, Gujarat NGO takes water, food to ‘inhospitable’ Kutch regions

Maniben Naga, a koli from Nagavandh, receiving ration kit
By Gazala Paul*
Parbat Bijal Koli and Shantiben Bala Koli live 63 kms apart in two different villages of two administrative blocks in Gujarat's most inhospitable region -- the Greater Rann of Kutch. And at a time when Gujarat is among the worst hit Covid-19 states in India, Parbat and Shantiben are battling two different challenges compounded by the blistering heat of the Rann -- a near-total lack of drinking water in the case of the former and severe shortage of food grain as far as the latter is concerned.
A resident of Dungranivandh in Dholavira panchayat, Parbat works as a labour hand on agricultural fields in the sowing season and migrates to Gandhidham or Morbi town during the summer months to double up as a worker on construction sites. When the Covid-19 national lockdown was imposed across the country, Parbat had little or no work, managing to sell his labour for only days over the three months that the pandemic-related restriction has been in place. Since Dungranivandh is barely a few kilometers from the edge of the great salt marsh that is the Rann, water shortage is a perennial occurrence.
Like others living nearby, Parbat too has begun to face the problem of water scarcity. His family spends Rs 1,500 to fill up their underground water tank which has an 8,000-litre capacity. This amount was taken as an "informal" loan on high interest from a local money lender. Besides, he took another loan of Rs 10,000 at 3 percent interest from a second money lender. By the time water scarcity hit his family and others at Dungranivandh hard, he had already spent half the amount to top-up his water tank.
Far away at Bhuranivandh (in Gujarati, a vandh is a hamlet) in Adesar village of Rapar block, 40-year-old Shantiben, who is from the Koli community, lives with her six children all by herself after her husband deserted her for another woman. Left in the lurch, Shantiben began took to labouring a couple of years ago on a charcoal field and in sundry agricultural plots to support herself and her children. 
When the lockdown was imposed, she was left with no income. That is when she thought up a novel idea to earn some money: with her experience on the charcoal fields, she took to this work on her own after borrowing some money as seed capital from a local money lender.
Water distribution in Dungranivandh and Fafravandh villages
However, shocked by the fact that the nearest marketplace at Adesar was shut because of the lockdown, she was forced to her sell her charcoal produce to the money lender. When she realised that the money lender would not only push her to settle the principal amount she had borrowed, plus the interest, and would not pay her a fair price for the charcoal, Shantiben dropped the idea altogether.
Not all is lost for either Parbat or Shantiben, however. Ahmedabad-based Samerth Charitable Trust, which has been working among those hit the hardest by the Covid-19 lockdown and has been distributing food grain and providing drinking water to the residents of the blocks in the Greater Rann, not only came to Parbat and Shantiben's rescue but also of other residents on the margins.
Samerth's support to Parbat and his family by way of providing drinking water through tankers has helped him store up for the next three months, especially at a time when the monsoon season is still a few months away. Samerth's support to Parbat and other hapless residents in Dungranivandh has not only helped them save money but has also encouraged them to return to the agricultural fields.
Samerth, with Azim Premji philanthropic support, supplied water, distributed ration in rural areas of Rapar and Bhachau blocks
Water scarcity in Kutch, especially in Khadir region of Bhachau block, is worse than the worst nightmare for the residents. The communities living in Bhachau are mainly into working as labourers on agricultural land, charcoal-making, masonry and stone cutting in nearby mines among others.
Khadir has no direct water supply through the Narmada river pipeline. The area is dependent on bore well water or that supplied by state government-operated tankers. On some occasions, especially when the land becomes parched in the summers and the Narmada canals and ponds dry up, the village folks fall upon buying water from private suppliers and fill up their respective tanks which Samerth helped construct. All forms of domestic vessels, large or small, are also used to store water. 
The Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown worsened the conditions. But with support from the Bengaluru-based Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (APPI), Samerth has been supplying drinking water through tankers to the families living in Dungranivandh, Fafravandh and Kharoda hamlets located near Dholavira village in Khadir region.
Shantiben Bala, a koli from Bhuranivandh, receiving ration kit
Samerth efforts to supply water through tankers began on June 5 -- World Environment Day. Since then, the NGO has covered 96 families across Fafravandh, Dungranivandh and Kharoda and supplied the first round of 4,000-litre water to each household. The second round of water distribution started on June 22. Overall, Samerth has so far distributed 8,000 litres to each of the 96 families. This effort will help families survive till August.
Meanwhile, at Bhuranivandh, Samerth provided ration kits to Shantiben and other families living in the same hamlet. This will help Shantiben save whatever little money she has saved. Operating from Gagodar village, Samerth, again with support from Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, distributed 685 ration kits across 12 neighbouring villages and 20 hamlets of Rapar block in Kutch district, in June. Earlier the same families were provided food kits in the month of April 2020.
The beneficiaries belong to a host of communities such as the Parkara Kolis, Kolis, Dalits, Rabaris and Bharwads who are not only backward but also survive on the margins. Many of members of these deprived communities do not own land and work as agricultural and mine labourers or are into charcoal-making to eke out their living. What makes them even more vulnerable is that these families live deep in the interiors and do not have direct access to roads leading to the village centres.
Samerth started its food distribution programme in the villages of Rapar in April, followed by providing 685 food grain packets primarily among 583 families who are in the BPL (below poverty line) category and another round of distribution among 147 APL (above poverty line) households. These packets, supplemented by the food grain supplies of the state government (through fair price shops), have helped the people survive for a month-and-a-half.
The kits comprise cooking ingredients such as cooking oil (2 litres), sugar (1 kg), moong dal (1 kg), wheat flour (10 kg), red chilli powder (500 gm), turmeric powder (500 gm), salt (1 kg), jaggery (2 kgs), tea packets (500 gm), Santoor soap (3 pieces), Ghadi detergent bars (5 pieces) and millet (10 kgs). These have helped the people to mix and match with the wheat and rice provided by the state government. These supplies will see the people through till the end of July.
---
*Founder, Samerth Charitable Trust, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

US publication blames Gates Foundation for 'accelerating' India's healthcare crisis

By Rajiv Shah A new book, published by the New York-based Monthly Press Review (MPR), has blamed Microsoft founder Bill Gates for “crowning” the crisis allegedly engulfing India’s health sector, stating, the top American billionaire’s foundation of late has acquired “extraordinary influence" over India’s public health governance,  giving a fillip to a policy that deprives access of public healthcare facilities for majority of the country’s population.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.