Image above is of Kalika’s social map

‘What has anyone done till date? What will you do now? All that you do is ask us each year and then leave us to our fate’, cried the 65 year old Kumar as I sought his help during the Social Mapping Exercise in Kalika, the chosen Adarsh Gram in the Balasore Constituency of Odisha. Disgruntled with the presence of yet another NGO/Government representative in his village, he simply turned back and started strolling towards his newly constructed home, which he later mentioned was the result of his 40 years of hard work. While I stood stunned with the reaction, I did not miss the pain in his eyes and immediately rushed to request him to talk to me.

Kumar agreed to share his pain and escorted me to the backyard of his home where I saw his wife struggling to light the Chullah. He continued to walk a little further then slowly peeped down into a deep well and seconds later nodded in displeasure. I finally sensed his pain when he uttered in hopelessness – ‘Paani ka major problem hai, sarkaar abhi tak kuch nahi kiya (There is a major water crisis here and the Government is not helping)’. He then pointed towards a Government constructed toilet (under the Swachh Bharat Mission) opposite the well that he conveniently refused to use. The reasons he cited were lack of water supply and a major construction flaw that led to ineffective disposal of waste. While I already knew that only 3 out of 11 wards in Kalika had piped drinking water supply, I was shaken with the reality check. Kumar had given me the 1st priority item I needed to work on. His sole vision of an Adarsh Gram was running water in his house. No more, no less. I therefore assured to work towards solving his decades-long problem.

I encountered the same issue in a rather unusual manner the very next day during a Mini Health Camp I had planned to assess the prevailing health scenario in Kalika. No sooner did the word about their MP organizing a health camp spread, than a sizeable number of villagers gathered at the Panchayat Bhawan. As I introduced the Adarsh Gram Project and the agenda for the evening to the attendees, I saw many happy faces excited about Naturopathy and Yoga treatment that would help them reduce financial burden owing to health related causes. However I was soon interrupted by a section of the audience who wanted me (the Government) to focus on other important issues in the village. ‘Paani hi nahi aata hai idhar (There is no provision of water supply here)’, yelled a voice. I was least surprised to see the crowd agree with the voice. By now, Kalika had unanimously announced its foremost requirement and it was clear that in order for me to win the support of the village community, which was absolutely necessary, the water problem had to be solved. I reaffirmed the people to try my best to ensure piped water supply in each household of the Gram Panchayat. Towards the end of the health camp, I realized that the two individuals who first raised the water problem did not come forward to avail any medical treatment; possibly their purpose of arrival was already accomplished.

I now set out for a comprehensive assessment of the water scenario in the Panchayat. A majority of people in Kalika rely solely on Tube wells for water supply. While the Government has installed 50 Tube wells across the GP, the contribution of private entities to the lot was 12. 7 out these 62 Tube wells were installed in each of the schools while only 3 (out of 11) Anganwadi Centers had this high privilege. 10 of the remaining 52 Tube wells were installed in the three wards that had piped water supply while 3 Tube wells in the GP were completely non-functional. That leaves us with 39 Tube wells catering to the daily needs of approximately 4,000 living in the rest 8 unfortunate wards. Not to forget the daily water requirements of the cattle owned by most of the families in Kalika. As if this was not enough, I was informed that many small patches of agricultural land in the GP depended on Tube wells for water. Now assuming that a family of 5 with 2 animals needs 150L of water per day, it turns out that each of the 39 Tube wells in 8 wards of Kalika should pump out at least 3000L of water. Add on to this the water requirement for irrigation and miscellaneous activities such as cleaning and construction activities. That’s a whole lot of dependency on Tube wells most of which cause pain during peak summers. The Math completely justified the demands of the village community. Moreover since this was the month of May, many villagers complained that the water problem has severely aggravated and Tube wells were just not sufficient.

With a clearly defined agenda in mind, I returned to Balasore and escalated the issue with the MPs office. According to SAGY guidelines issued by the Ministry of Rural Development, it is mandatory that every household in selected Adarsh Grams have piped water supply. Accordingly, I met the concerned authority responsible for ensuring water supply within the district to discuss the pressing nature of the situation. As a MPs representative, I expedited the ‘Kalika Water Proposal’ with the District and Block administration and within 2 months, the Detailed Project Report (DPR) was prepared and forwarded to the SAGY Nodal Officer for approval. The DPR entailed provision for construction of 4 new water sources such that each household in Kalika has piped drinking water supply.

The first major step towards transforming Kalika into an Adarsh Gram was finally achieved. Heavy monsoon had now struck Odisha and I boarded the train to Delhi in extreme delight. I imagined a smile on Kumar’s face as his lifelong desire would soon get fulfilled.

To know more about Swaniti’s work in Kalika please email Subham Chirania at shubham.c@swaniti.in