In cut-off Dalit colonies, holes dug to steal dirty water
Even for contaminated drinking water, more than 2,500 villagers of Lopo have to dig holes and break into the main underground line.
Moga’s groundwater is rich in fluoride and uranium and its surface (canal) water in heavy metals. The hand pumps and cavities from where the people of two Dalit colonies in the district’s Lopo village get water are near sewage disposal points.
“At Lopo, Badhni Kalan, Meenian, Rauke Kalan, Butter Kalan and 26 other villages of the Nihal Singh Wala jurisdiction, the reverse-osmosis (RO) water filtration plants are of no use to the Dalits,” said Baldev Singh, district vice-president of the Kirti Kisan Union (KKU). “Their settlements are at the farthest ends, where the trickle being supplied in summer is all sucked up before.”
The entire villages have installed illegal motor-driven pumps, so minimum water reaches the endpoint colonies, space assigned to the downtrodden. “The heat wave has forced us to beg for drinking water two times a day,” said Baldev Singh. “Nobody has cared.”
To get to underground water, people in the affected colonies have dug up holes outside their homes to puncture the main line running below, all for a little more volume than the trickle in their taps. Chamkaur Singh, a disabled social worker of Lopo village, has seen more than 2,000 dwellers of Lohatbadhi Dalit colony and another 500 people of Nangal Basti struggle for drinking water for the past two months. “I fetch drinking water from a hand pump 2 km from my house,” he said. “The health department has declared that water unfit but we don’t have another source.”
Persinn Kaur, 80, queues up for drinking water every morning, and sometimes her effort goes waste. Every summer, some of the children of Nangal Basti become sick after drinking polluted water. “We yearn for pure water,” said the octogenarian woman. “On days when we have water in the supply lines, we store it and drink it the next day without purification.”
NO FINE, NO HELP
Most families in these villages, affluent or poor, are yet to pay their fine for fitting pumps to steal water from the supply lines, so the gram panchayat and authorities concerned have declined to act on their complaints.
The government had built three new-technology waterworks, confirmed Harjit Singh, sarpanch of Lopo. “The people of Nangal Basti and Lohatbadhi are short of drinking water indeed, and it’s our duty to serve everybody, but many villagers never pay their pilferage fines,” he said, “and continue to run illegal pumps to draw groundwater. The panchayat has decided to sever their connection.”