Bhadarwah: Despite her enthusiasm for seeking education, 16-year-old Fatima from Chanera hamlet in Bhadarwah district, couldn’t clear class 8 exams in two attempts. The daily chore of fetching potable water for her family has taken a toll on Fatima’s studies.
Multiple trips to the sprouting spring miles away, results in almost 8 hours of walking daily, which leaves Fatima exasperated. The fear of being under qualified is like a nightmare, she says.
"I don't want to write the exam again. I don't think I can do any better this time around," Fatima told Greater Kashmir.
In absence of piped water supply, scores of girls in hilly areas with a tribal population in Bhadarwah, have sacrificed their education to ensure that supply chain of water, the most sought-after commodity in the area remains uninterrupted.
Each drop of water is such a prized possession in the Chanera hamlet, that atleast fifteen school going tribal girls had to quit studies to make fetching of water as their primary chore.
" I have a passion for studies and with great difficulty, I managed to study up to class 12. Last year I quit my studies for the sake of my family as I have to collect water leaving me with no time to carry on with my education," said 18-year old Rubina Bano.
In this hamlet, traditionally, women especially girls are in charge of collecting water every day for use in their homes and for cattle as well.
With deficient rainfall recorded in the area, first locating and then collecting water from far off areas in the forest leaves female students with no option but to quit studies.. Despite several government schemes, which ensures potable water supply to every household, Chenera hamlet of Misrata Panchayat in Additional District Bhadarwah inhabited by Below Poverty Line tribal Gujjar population is reeling under severe water crisis since last two years.
Many of the natural water resources near this hamlet have also dried up forcing the womenfolk to collect unhygienic muddy water for use at home.
"We also aspire that our girls should go to school but for us, our first priority is to collect water to save our lives and that of our cattle. Usually people are scared of how to manage and collect the dowry for girl child but in our village we are more worried about how and from where to collect the water for marriage or in case of a demise," said Bibi Begum (45) of Chenera hamlet.
Villagers and representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions say they have been running from pillar to post since last three years to get any potable water scheme sanctioned for their village but authorities especially that of 'Jal Shakti Vibhag' always given a cold shoulder to their repeated requests and even misbehaved with them, they said.
"I was taken aback when I narrated the sufferings of poor tribal population of Chenera hamlet to AEE Jal Shakti Vibhag sub division Bhaderwah as instead of listening patiently, he became aggressive and even used foul language while shouting that he does not have a magic sword to provide them water and also insisted that underground pipes are laid in the village and water is provided to them every alternate day," said Rashid Choudhary, district youth president JKNPP.
When contacted, Executive Engineer Jal Shakti Vibhag, Doda, Harjeet Singh said," As per reports of the field staff, the said hamlet is without piped water supply and for detailed project, I will send a team there and will try to provide drinking water to the village under Jal Jeevan Mission but it will take some time to implement the project and provide potable water to them," Singh said.