A surface water storage structure in a village near Ranchi
Rural women, who walked miles under the scorching sun to bring water for their families but had no idea about how to change their fate for centuries, will do so now.
In the arid hinterland of Ranchi district, a quiet water revolution is taking place this summer, thanks to an out-of-the-pitcher move initiated by the state drinking water and sanitation department.
The department has formed Pani Samitis across 1,311 villages in the district.
Each village has one 12-member samiti headed by the mukhiya. Most members are women.
Based on the premise that they know local needs best, they have been equipped with bank accounts and asked to start projects such installing hand pumps, digging wells and ponds and de-silting them.
The objective behind this is simple. No rural household should stay thirsty.
To ensure an even representation, among the 12 members, four are from the gram panchayat, two are jal sahiyas or mediators between households and Pani Samiti and the rest from the village zilla parishad.
State drinking water and sanitation department felt the need for the samiti before the onset of summer this year after a survey in March-April revealed residents of 1,319 villages in Ranchi district had already been reeling under acute water crisis with most hand pumps lying defunct. Women walked kilometres to fetch water for daily use.
That’s when officials mooted the idea of Pani Samiti, with empowerment at the grassroots.
“For each samiti, we opened bank accounts of the mukhiya, a jal sahiya and a member of the gram panchayat. We are depositing funds in these three accounts. They use the money to install hand pumps, dig wells and ponds,” said Kallol Saha, state co-ordinator of Water and Sanitation Mission, Jharkhand, a programme undertaken by the department.
On the sums, Saha said Pani Samiti members gave budgets based on needs. “We have also empowered the samiti members to adopt state government water schemes in their respective villages within a budget of Rs 10 lakh. All they need to do is submit a proposal to us,” he added.
Samiti members also contact officials on toll-free number — 18003456502 — for any water-related problems.
The programme is gradually gaining momentum. For instance, in Tarup village, Ratu block, villagers are mulling rainwater harvesting.