Young Girls in Karnataka Risk Their Lives for a Pot of Water

Water from tanks provided by authorities is not sufficient, forcing young girls to climb into almost dried wells. 

4 min read
On April 30, 19-year-old Anita Suryakant became  the second girl to be injured by falling around 20 feet into the stone-lined well. (Photo: <i>The News Minute</i>)

For World Environment Day 2016 on June 5th, The Quint brings you a series of stories on the state of water in India. The past couple of years have been drier than usual. Weak monsoons had devastating consequences for farmers across the country. Follow our World Environment Day coverage for a look at our water situation.

This piece was originally published May 2, 2016.

In Kalamandargi village in Karnataka’s Kalaburagi district, the daily task of drawing water for the household has become a huge risk for the lives of the young people in the village. To get water, villagers, often the young women in the family, have to climb into the well by a series of narrow stones jutting out of the wall of the well to form a rough stair.

On 30 April, 19-year-old Anita Suryakant became the second girl to be injured after falling around 20 feet into the stone-lined well where water has to be arduously drawn cup by cup from a small puddle at the bottom of a mostly dry well. Her brother Lokesh, 23, said that this was the first time that Anita had gone down into the well, when the incident occurred.

Anita was shifted by ambulance to a medical facility in Kalaburagi.

Just four days earlier, another girl Chaithi Ishwar, aged 12, had also fallen into the well and been hurt.

Anita in the hospital. (Photo Courtesy: <i>The News Minute</i>)
Anita in the hospital. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

For this village of around 3,000 inhabitants, the water situation has been dire as the community well has been almost completely dry for the last two months. The only available water at most times is a tiny puddle of dirty yellow water that fills in a trickle at the bottom of the well.

Although the village receives four tankers of water every day, even this tanker water gets filled into the well. Two Syntex tanks with six attached pipes were built in the village for distributing water from tankers, said Mahesh, a resident of the village. But repeated fights over unequal access to the pipes supplying water from the tanks, leaving some families without adequate water, resulted in the decision to fill the tanker water in the well.

Besides, the water that is received from the tankers is insufficient for the village, which is predominantly inhabited by Lingayat families, who all own livestock besides land. Each house ideally requires 30 to 40 pots of water per day. Once this inadequate supply of water begins to be exhausted, it is only by climbing into the well and slowly scooping up the dregs out of the well that families are able to draw water.

Anita was rendered unconscious by the fall, and she was brought out of the well in a basket placed on a harness.

Another girl of her age, Kaveri, was also in the well at that time.

Kaveri’s mother Thangamma says she will not let her daughter go down into the well again. “Whatever water we get from the tanker, we will make do with that. But how can I let my daughter climb into the well again?” she said.

Chaithi’s mother Nagamma, says that although Chaithi had a smaller fall from closer to the bottom, she is now frightened of the well. “Chaithi doesn’t want anyone from the house to go near the well.”

Meanwhile, with the drought and severe water shortages, she says, there is no work to be done, and little or no food for the family to eat. “There are just two bags of jola left for us to eat.”

Chaithi (in white) with her mother and sister. (Photo: <i>The News Minute</i>)
Chaithi (in white) with her mother and sister. (Photo: The News Minute)

At the hospital in Gulbarga, Anita’s family is waiting patiently for information from the doctors on how serious her injuries are, but have only been told that she requires some tests. Her brother Sharanabasappa says that the Rs 1500 the family must spend for Anita’s tests are going to be a large burden as the family only has a small kirana store in the village to its name.

Back in Kalamandargi, when asked whether people who managed to fill their pots shared with others who were left empty handed, Mahesh said: “When this water isn’t enough for yourself, will you share with others? No.”

Water scarcity is a major global concern. This story is part of The Quint’s #WaterBucketChallenge campaign for World Environment Day 2016. Join us in trying to save water one bucket at a time using our hashtag and make sure you tag us too!

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