To fetch a pail of water - now a matter of life and death

Water draws blood as a man is killed in a Ghaziabad suburb defending his right to it

shivani

Shivani Chaturvedi | June 15, 2010


An injured Pawan looks at the handpump over which his father was killed
An injured Pawan looks at the handpump over which his father was killed

On June 5, Nand Kishore, a 50-year-old labourer was killed near his Sangam Vihar home at Loni in Ghaziabad district. Kishore had tried to shield his daughter Neetu from his neighbours who abused her while she was filling empty cans at a handpump in front of the latter's home.

According to locals, the handpump which Neetu was using that day is the only source of potable water for over 3,500 families living in Sangam Vihar and nearby Rajiv Garden and Vikas Kunj. Others in the area are best used for cleaning and washing purposes.It also happens to be situated in a cramped lane in the area, right in front of Rajendra Kumar Singh's house. Singh, his neighbours assert, had assumed ownership of the public handpump because of its location. So, when Neetu had tried to draw water at the pump, his family hurled abuses at her.

Hearing the abuse, her father and her brother Pawan had rushed to her defence, only to be attacked by Singh's eldest son Sonu. Sonu stabbed Nand Kishore and left him to blled to his death slashed at Pawan's forehead leaving the boy with a gash that was barely healing when this piece was written.

“This is not the first time when Rajendra and his family have fought over water. This handpump was installed in this gali in 1994 and since then the residents have been abused for drawing water from the pump. Rajendra consider’s it as his personal property,” says Neetu.

“This time nobody knew that the quarrel would be so intense that I will loose my father just over the issue of water," she says, blinking back tears.

And this is probably not the only incident of violence involving water, the hand pump and the Singh family. Tarun Kohli, another Sangam Vihar resident, alleges that the Singh family had stabbed and killed his mother a few years back when she was drawing water from the pump.

Fetching water from this pump is a matter of life and death, and the nearest one can find relief is a pump half-a-kilometre away, informs Raja Ram, another local.

"Almost all of us have a handpump near our houses but we don’t get potable water from it. It can be used for bathing, washing clothes and utensils but not drinking and thus all of us have to depend on this handpump which unluckily is installed infront of Rajendra’s house. But the administration does not seem to be bothered about our problems," says Vidya, Neetu's 80-year old neighbour.

Several complaints have been registered against both the Singh family and the acute shortage of drinking water in the area with various authorities - the Jal Nigam, the Nagar Palika Parishad and the police - but no action has been taken so far.

While Neetu and other locals blame the authorities' apathy for their plight, the Ghaziabad (city) SP A K Vijaita insists that his office had no inkling of the problem until after the incident.

Rules dictate that handpumps should be installed on every 75 metres, informs Zuhairbin Saghir, chief development officer, Ghaziabad. The latest state government order says that there has to be at least one handpump for a population of 100.

Supplying water is the Nagar Nigam's or the Nagar Palika's responsibility in urban areas while UP Agro and Jal Nigam supply water in rural areas in the state.

"So, the Nagar Palika needs to look in to the Loni's water issue," he says.

The Nagar Palika Parishad currently supplies water to only about 15 percent of the houses in Loni.

Eight tubewells, three water-tanks (with the capacity of 15 lakh cusec, 5 lakh cusec and 20,000 gallon) and 840 handpumps are all that supply water to Loni. The four gram sabhas - Behta-Hazipur, Pabhi-Sadakpur, Saddullahbad and Loni rural - which were incorporated under the Loni municipal in 2005 still do not have water supply. There are just a few handpumps to cater to the needs of the residents in these areas.

RK Dikshit, executive officer, Loni Nagar Palika Parishad says that under the central Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) scheme, 17 overhead tanks and 45 tubewells will be set up in the four gram sabhas and old Loni area where there is no water supply.

"Jal Nigam has laid pipeline in the area and the work is expected to complete by 2011," he informs.

Meanwhile, Nand Kishore's family can just hope that justice arrives sooner than the promised water.

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