Pointing at an overhead storage tank, the villagers told me it was constructed 10 years ago, yet it has been empty to date and has never supplied a drop. We were in Talwade village in Yeola tehsil, Nasik district. Close to the water tank was a half-constructed large pond that was meant to store rainwater during the monsoon and provide employment for villagers during the harsh summers. Neither purpose was satisfied. Work continued only for a few days before it came to a halt, leaving people with no employment and no pond to harvest rainwater.
Further ahead in the same village we came to an area called Shivaji Nagar, where a community of 500 landless labourers lived in dismal conditions. Earlier, when water for irrigation was available, they found work in others’ fields. Ever since, water shortage caused fields to dry up and farmers to abandon them; there hasn’t been any employment for these families. Pushed to survive through extreme poverty, lack of resources, and employment, these people have been living on rotis begged from the city of Aurangabad.
Shaukat Shah, father of three, along with 50 others, boards the Manmad-Aurangabad passenger train a few times a week to bring back rotis from the city to their village. The rotis collected are dried up and stored in sacks, and then shared among everyone in the community. They are boiled and eaten throughout the week. It was shocking to see rotten and mud-covered rotis in the sack. Playful children picked up dirty rotis from the bags that were opened to show us and started munching on them as if they were a delicacy.
In the village of Rajpur, Prakash Hegde runs an electric motor and water pump business. However, due to water scarcity plaguing the villages for the past three years, his business hasn’t taken off.
“When there’s no water, what will we pump?” is his question.
Similarly, in the village of Mithsagar, Dattatreya Jadhav slowly progressed from owing a tea shop to a two-room grocery shop. In the early days of the drought, people still had the spending capacity to buy a candy or an affordable indulgence. After three years of continuous drought and crop failure, and left with no resources, who would come by and buy anything that isn’t a dire necessity? Jadhav today carries his goodies in an auto-rickshaw and travels to neighboring villages in the hope of making a profit.
It wasn’t hard to see the importance of water and its power to drastically alter the quality of life, for better or for worse. When asked about water, everyone repeated the same story we’d been hearing everywhere. With no water to even drink, taking a bath was a luxury they could afford only once every 3-4 days.
As the sun set a chinkara, as the Indian gazelle is locally known, wandered into the village of Rajpur looking for water; animals and humans alike being parched for the precious resource. Understanding the poor animal’s plight, the villagers gave it some water to drink.
But who will give these villages water?
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