Water Water Nowhere-new

Recently Maharashtra has been in the news for the draught in the state. I experienced this situation during my official visit to Maharashtra for field assessment and data collection for a CECED, AUD research study titled ‘Feasibility Assessment for Rolling out Policy in Early Childhood Care and Education in Rajasthan and Maharashtra’.

During the field assessments, I visited a village called Loni in Beed district of Maharashtra in the month of November 2015. Loni is struggling with limited resources and has its own share of challenges. A weak political system only heightens the struggle.

As part of the data collection process for the study, I visited an anganwadi centre in the same village. After I introduced myself to the Anganwadi Worker, a man came in with two packaged drinking water bottles and left it in the Anganwadi. I found it a little unusual, but did not pay much attention to it at that moment.

After I began my assessment, the Anganwadi worker offered me the same bottle of water the man had brought. I was surprised that somebody offered me packaged drinking water in a village. I have visited number of anganwadis across various states and I have always been offered water in a glass and it has always made me feel welcome. However, this was a first. I was curious but hesitant to ask why and continued with the interview and the observations.

After completing the assessment in the Anganwadi, I went to conduct the FGD (focus group discussion) with the local people of the village. During the FGD session, people came up with the problems their village is facing. The biggest issue that emerged was a huge water shortage. People living in the village had to travel 20-30 kilometres everyday to fetch water for their households. One member from each household was generally entrusted with the task of fetching water. When asked “Why doesn’t the Sarpanch of the village do anything to resolve this issue” the response of the community indicated a weak and corrupt administration. They said, that “the administration is busy resolving their own petty conflicts that happen in the village” and that “they are not really interested in the welfare of the village people”. In fact, even the meagre share of resources and facilities that were being sent by the government were not reaching the right places and the people in power were the only ones benefitting from it.

There was no water for drinking or toileting in the village. There was only one government primary school and two Anganwadis and even they did not have any water facility. One Anganwadi was running in the primary school premises and the other was running in a temple premise. There was no electricity, no water, and very limited facilities for the children living in the village. There were only 3 teachers in the primary school. The people of the village were barely scraping through and trying to make both ends meet with the very limited resources available in the village. In such a scenario, education and care of children had definitely taken a backseat. When they were asked about provisions related to early childhood education (ECE) in the village, their only response was ‘education is something which comes later; we need basic resources first for our children’. Their first concern was the basic needs.

Although the lives of the people in Loni village were full of challenges, there was still hope in their eyes and courage in their heart which kept them going and one can only hope that their leadership takes note of it and helps them through this difficult time.

At the end, I didn’t need to ask why I was given a bottle of water to drink. Such hospitality is unparalleled!

Written By: Komal Khanna, CECED, Ambedkar University Delhi. She can be reached at komal@aud.ac.in

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely of the author. This is not necessarily CECED’s point of view but only reported by CECED.