Water to Power
The case discusses about an intervention that was initiated in a stratified society where caste based discrimination had been the order. The discrimination against a certain segment was exercised by the dominant castes who also had gained control over the economic and political resources in the society. With the control over resources with the affluent section, the oppressed were at the losing end. Their dignity in general and particularly that of the women was at the receiving end. The dominance and oppression were in particular with respect to people’s access to means that provided for a decent living standard. The poor and the oppressed had to struggle hard to have access to basic civic amenities like sanitation and water. The case discusses the efforts undertaken by a civil society organisation whose facilitation paved the way for behaviour change within the oppressed community. The social change process that got the fillip started with the access to basic civic amenities but later resulted in equating the power relations as well. The powerful have understood that they also need to work in tandem with the powerless to make for accessing the civic amenities. The process is just a beginning.
Chambal Valley is known for its organic social divide. This divide is based on caste hierarchy, wherein the dominant caste often is seen to engage in practices that reinforce the divide. Morena, one of the districts in this Valley, also carries forward the age old practice of caste based discrimination. The district is also one among the socially backward districts in northern Madhya Pradesh.
The caste based discrimination is one of the core issues of the area. This has created differences between sections of society, and has affected the poorer sections economically. The dominant group by virtue of their control over almost all economic resources (land, water and now also the governance) has marginalised a particular section of the society. The century old practice of marginalisation has resulted in making the particular section live a life where marginalisation is understood as something to be accepted. Mainstreaming these deprived, marginalised and excluded section and providing them with rights and entitlements has been seen as strategies by the civil society. However, it is easier said than done. The process of making them stand to raise their voices is a slow process where things may not always work in favour of the oppressed.
Ambah block of Morena district is a witness to this process of social change. Inequity in the society has been one of the chronic issues. The oppressed caste groups were unable to from access basic civic amenities. For them having potable drinking water and sanitation facilities were like dreams. The women folk were more at the receiving end as it was their responsibility to fetch drinking water and they faced wrath of the caste system almost on a regular basis.