Hit by acute water crisis, Gujjars threaten migration from Doda village
Gujjar families from Kota Top in Kharangal Panchayat of Tehsil Bhallessa in Doda are struggling hard to survive amid severe water crisis in the area for the past three decades.
Notwithstanding crores of rupees being spent in the name of rural water schemes, the people of this village have lost all the hope in the government and public representatives. "We are mulling to leave our native village as it has become difficult to survive here in absence of water," they said.
Located on a barren slope of Kharangal hills, Kota-Top is the last village of Tehsil Bhalessa in Doda district, comprising 50 mud houses and inhabited by Schedule Tribe population (Gujjars), who traditionally rely on cattle-rearing.
The womenfolk of this backward village are compelled to trek dangerous slippery slopes to fetch water for daily use and animals from the only water source which is located several kilometers down the hill.
They carry huge water pitchers on their heads to fetch water at least four times a day.
Most of the times, they have to wait in long queues for their turn to collect water with their toddlers tied to their backs. Stressed by the situation, they even pickup fights every now and then which sometimes result in ugly situations for village elders.
"Our cattle and humans drink water from the same source simultaneously. We have no other option but to manage from the single water point that too far away from the village," said a village elder Miskeen Ali Khatana.
"To avoid noisy scenes and fights among the womenfolk at the lone water point, we have decided that one of the village elders remains there all the time to maintain discipline," added Miskeen.
"There is acute scarcity of potable water in our village. There is no one to listen or feel our pain," said Safoora Begum, a local resident.
Greater Kashmir had raised this issue in a story published on April 21, 2016. After the story, while the Executive Engineer special sub-division Gandoh had maintained silence, BDO Gandoh had visited Kota-Top and promised villagers to build a water reservoir at the earliest. Villagers alleged that nothing has been done so far.
"This is a grave problem and after reading the story, I immediately submitted a detailed proposal to Assistant Commissioner Development Doda. As soon I get the approval from ACD office, we will immediately start the work," said BDO Gandoh, Pervaiz Ahmed Niak.
When contacted, Sub Divisional Magistrate Gandoh, Dalmir Choudhary said: "This is a high altitude hamlet having no water source in vicinity as all the natural sources are located downhill. We are trying to manage providing water from the gravity lines passing near the village."
"I have taken up the matter with both PHE and Rural Development Departments and am hopeful to provide them some relief by arranging piped water supply within one or two months," he said.