The fourth drought in last six years has reduced water table drastically. Water is available far away. People, especially women and girls have to walk long distances in the sun for water. And finally they can carry just two or three vessels per trip. Many villagers do not have footwear too. Also cattle become last priority in using water.
There is just one crop per year due to scarcity of water. Soyabean and cotton are main crops.
Due to water table going down, richer farmer make multiple borewells that go deeper and suck away the water. The poorer farmers and landless labour have access to mostly public water bodies.
There are just 2 solar electric poles in the village of 1200 people in Gopalpur and there is no activity after dark.
Most able bodied people are not satisfied with Rs.180 per day MNREGA scheme and they leave their parents, small children and village to go to other places to work in sugarcane factories at Rs.250 – 300 per day. They are taken by contractors in trucks and they come back after a few months.
Life is Grim.
Middle-aged and Elder Villagers are resigned to fate and have lost the spirit to fight. Abject poverty, injustice and drought-after-droughts have brought them to their knees. Our volunteer was mentioning a graduate couple in Gopalpur Village, who lives in a kacha house with a tin roof that heats up during the day (Summers are upto 43 degrees) that breaks down often and gets filled with water during monsoon and cooks on smoke filling wood. They think that this is the only way to life and have resigned to their fate. That is the average life.
The young want a better life and one anecdote is of our volunteer Renu (a professor of Mass Media in Mumbai) meeting a group of sharp, intelligent youngsters in a small village called Mamdapur. One of the youngster interspersed his talk with English words and when asked by Renu, he said that he has an Oxford dictionary at home, where he learns 50 new words every day. He and others deserve a better life.
500 metres outside Gopalpur village is a “Tanda” where the most backward caste people live without any road, water or electricity. Discrimination is not based on economy but on caste.
Caste dynamics play a very important role. But there is no physical conflicts in these villages due to caste or religion. The injustice is subtle.