Skip to main content

With NGO help, Bundelkhand women 'lead' water conservation, sanitation efforts

By Bharat Dogra* 

Important initiatives regarding rural water supply and sanitation have been taken in India in recent years. In this context the need for community mobilization on these important issues has increased further. As ground water is tapped more and more to meet the requirements of taps in all rural homes, the need for water conservation is also increasing more and more.
In this emerging situation the relevance of an already much appreciated effort to create a cadre of rural women volunteers devoted to water and sanitation needs of villages, with special emphasis on water conservation, has increased further. This effort was started by a voluntary organization Parmarth in Bundelkhand region (spread over parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in Central India). 
Starting with a Jal Saheli named Sirkunwar about a decade back, this effort already has about 1600 volunteers and there are plans to increase their numbers rather rapidly and extending the effort to other states like Rajasthan and Haryana as well.
These volunteers are called Jal Sahelis (or water friends). These Jal Sahelis are often identified with the sky blue sarees they wear. In recent times several Jal Sahelis have won prestigious government awards like ‘Catch the Rain’, ‘Water Warrior’ and ‘Jal Prahri’ awards.
Geeta played an important role in mobilizing the community for the cleaning and repair of Maanpur Tank in Jhansi district. Imarti along with two friends Phoolwati and Jamuna worked so hard to dig a well in very difficult rocky conditions that they won the respect of the entire community and more and more people started joining their effort, completing it successfully. Meera has been very active in the ODF campaign in her village in Jhansi district. 
In Hamirpur district Kunti led women on a campaign to clean a degraded water tank, succeeding where a contractor and his workers had failed initially. Deepa was so good in her campaign and voluntary work that she was later elected as the village sarpanch, enabling her to contribute in an even bigger way.
Sona has helped in the successful implementation of not just water conservation work but also in spreading natural farming and millet cultivation, testifying to the many-sided contributions of Jal Sahelis.
However the core area of Jal Sahelis remains that of water conservation, meeting water needs and improving water sanitation. With the implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission the Jal Sahelis are also active in sorting out any initial problems of implementation. If some houses have been left out of the pipelines reach, then jal sahelis try to help those who have been left out. In the context of such work they can inter-act much with the local panchayats in a mutually beneficial relationship.
In the water and sanitation programs of Parmarth, Jal Sahelis are seen as the most active members of a wider community organization on water related issues which is called Pani Panchyat. The general practice has been to select no more than 3 to 5 Jal Sahelis at the most from a village. 
They are selected on the basis of wider social awareness and commitment. After selection jal sahelis are invited for training programs aimed at capacity building. Several of them are also taken for exposure visits to those places where exemplary work has been done. They are also exposed to the work of other jal sahelis whose work has contributed in significant ways.
Jal sahelis have done work of great value without receiving any salary or honorarium. They generally come from families of modest means and in fact some of them are also from quite poor households. Hence their voluntary efforts deserve high appreciation.
I recently travelled to several villages of four districts of Bundelkhand region to meet several jal sahelis, some in a group, some at their home, and their morale appeared to be quite high.
Sanjay Singh, secretary of Parmarth, says that he would like to devote his life to spreading the concept of jal sahelis to more and more villages. The jal sahelis who are already experienced in water and sanitation work can help in motivating, helping and training new entrants so that the idea and work of jal sahelis can spread more extensively, he says.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include “When the Two Streams Met”, “A Day in 2071”, “Navjeevan” and “Man over Machine”

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

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".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.