| Villagers quench their thirst from a waterfall at Bengali Bund in Lakhisarai. Picture by Amit Kumar |
A group of villagers from remote Lathiya Saheb hamlet poured their heart out in front of the district magistrate on how they arrange drinking water from a filthy stream everyday.
The small village falls under the jurisdiction of the Maoist-hit Piribazar police station in Lakhisarai.
At district magistrate (DM) Amrendra Pratap Singh’s janata durbar on Thursday, the villagers narrated that even after 66 years of Independence, they have to arrange water by themselves and that too from a dirty stream.
The group of people, mostly tribals, demanded pure drinking water for them immediately.
“What has the government done for us? Please come to our village to see how we live. People living in remote areas migrate after every three to four months in search of water once the summer sets in,” group leader Lakhan Koda said.
DM Singh immediately asked the executive engineer of Lakhisarai unit of Public Health Engineering Department to ensure pure drinking water in the hamlets. He, however, said: “We would soon find a permanent solution to the problem.”
However, this was not the story of one Lakhan Koda or his co-villagers. Hundreds of villagers from the Maoist-hit districts of Lakhisarai, Jamui, Munger and parts of Banka continue to struggle for drinking water.
The irony is that all these Naxalite-affected districts in eastern Bihar have special Central schemes such as the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) and Naxal special area developing project.
The administrations in all these districts often claim about implementation of Aap Ki Sarkar Aapke Dwar programme and also for conducting Vikash Shivirs (development camps) in remote villages.
More than 170, 120 and 60 villages in Jamui, Munger and Lakhisarai do not have drinking water facilities.
“Villagers depend on the natural sources such as streams, ditches and waterfalls. But during summers, when most of the natural sources of water dry up, they have to migrate to another place in search of water,” said Munger-based safe water activist Kishore Jaiswal.
“We have to drink contaminated water, which is usually green in colour, from a waterfall,” he added.
Bindu Yadav, a homemaker at Bengali Bund under Surajgarha block said her family shares water with cattle and wild animals at the streams.
Social activist Narendar of Lakhisarai said water- borne diseases such kala-azar are common in their area because “they are compelled to consume dirty water everyday”.
On May 4, 2012, the then Munger divisional commissioner, S.M. Raju, had asked his subordinates to prepare a special action plan to counter the drinking water problem.
He had also suggested formation of village committees under the leadership of block development officer. But nothing has been done in this direction. The then inspector-general of police, Bhagalpur zone, A.K. Ambedkar had also taken an initiative and had raised the issue before chief minister Nitish Kumar during development-related meetings.