Dharti Gramotthan Evam Shabhagi Gramin Vikas Samiti

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DHARTI

Water to Power

water-to-power4As the progress beyond five sanitation blocks almost met a dead end, the VWSC members in their meetings raised the issue of water scarcity. After several rounds of meetings and discussions it was decided that a water supply scheme will be planned and constructed to meet water demand of SC community. It was also agreed that the scheme will be managed by community for its operation and maintenance. The community and the organisation sat together with some technical experts from the PHED and designed for a scheme which had the capacity of the storage tank at 40,000 liters. The scheme had water connection at the households' doorsteps. The plan and the estimates followed suit and the cost was understood to be something around Rs 4,54,000. They also discussed how the cost would be contributed from within the community so that the remaining can come from the organisation. A small committee was formed to collect people’s contribution which was understood to mark the beginning of this initiative. The contribution amount was fixed at Rs 22,000 of which cash contribution was agreed to be Rs 10,000 and the remaining would come as labour contribution from the 90 households. They also decided amongst them a few members who would be involved in purchase of the materials required. However, this committee had to discuss the costs with the VSWC before the placing of the order.

The construction of this pipeline scheme was completed within three months with active community participation at each and every stage of the construction. They community was involved in procurement of construction material, maintaining quality, purchase of machinery, motor, etc. When the construction was almost about to get completed, the dominant caste group within the village felt that once this scheme became operational, their monopoly over resources would end and they influenced the electricity department to disconnect the electricity supplies. This was done particularly to ensure the failure of community pipeline water scheme which was being equated as a scheme to empower the SC households.

Everything was there except the electricity. Thus began another chapter of struggle. They discussed various options and also tried out a few. They got a generator set to supply power, but had to soon withdraw the same as it was costing them a lot. They were unable to pay for such high costs. They understood soon that the scheme could not run without electricity. They started moving papers and applications for restoration of supplies. The memorandum for electricity was given at the local panchayat office, at the PHED, to the Collector, and also to the MLA. Dharti, stood by them and took care of the representations. The member of the parliament was also contacted. But nothing moved for the next five months. The villagers knew it for sure that keeping hopes alive would help them tide over the crisis and they continued with their struggle.

After a long struggle of almost about one year the electricity connection was restored. An additional DP was required to run the motor and this was obtained by paying Rs 64,000. The community this time came out with their matching contribution of Rs 34,000. They knew for sure that this new connection would give them independence from any others who would now not be able to play foul. They also knew that they needed to show that they could and so contribution for them became a means to restore their dignity. Finally the much awaited day came as they could start the scheme. The day was festive and it was a day which gave semblance of having gained independence. A Bhandara (community food festival) with Ramayan Path was organised and small girls from the community were served water first that came out of the scheme.

The community today collects a water tax of Rs 50 per month from each of the households having water connection. The supplies are two times every day and the committee maintains all records judiciously. The amount collected as water tax is used for paying electricity bills and for taking care of minor repair and maintenance work of the scheme. The community is conscious about the usage and takes care of maintenance of the taps at its own end.