Lucknow: Taking European Union’s project of ‘Establishing Women’s First Right to Water Resources’ in India a step ahead, Waterman Rajendra Singh has proposed to set up a fully-owned and administered women panchayat for managing water resources in drought-ridden Bundelkhand area. He titled these special panchayats as ‘Neer Naari Panchayat’ (Water Women Panchayat).
Speaking on Bundelkhand’s water crisis, he said at a public hearing in Lucknow, “Women know best how to efficiently use water and fulfill water needs of their families so the responsibility to identify water aquifers in Bundelkhand’s ponds and wells and managing them aptly should be given to them.”
Though, he added, such women panchayats have been working in the region at smaller levels, they never got the opportunity to present local issues at the state government level.
He said women of Bundelkhand should be entitled to make their own panchayats to deal with water scarcity and their feedback and requirement for funds should be taken into account by the state government while planning schemes for the region. “Until now, their voice never got registered with the state government’s scheme of things. They should now have official representation in government’s plans, else Bundelkhand’s drought condition would never get better,” he said.
Since 2011, village women have independently formed panchayats and are also working on an individual level with ‘Jal Sahelis’ (water’s friend) to create awareness among locals about water conservation, health and hygiene practices etc. One such Jal Saheli, Lalita Dubey, said, “We have repaired many hand-pumps on our own and also built platforms around them to keep the surrounding clean in villages.” Some are also helping in making small check-dams and cleaning wells of the region.
Singh pointed out that despite several schemes being announced by the government from time to time for Bundelkhand area, nothing has worked on ground because of lack of political will and corrupt contractors.
He asserted, “There should be a people’s commission headed by an independent expert (a judge, activist or a water conservationist) for all Bundelkhand schemes which could probe into the funds which have come from the government in the past 10-15 years and see how much of it has actually reached the ground.”
He said that government’s top priority should be to identify water-bodies in Bundelkhand and efforts to rejuvenate them by cleaning pollution and silt deposited inside them. “They are best water rechargers and should be cleaned immediately to cease drought in the area in future,” he said. There are over 9,000 ponds in Bundelkhand which are either encroached, dirty or dry due to lack of care.
First published by Times of India