Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Visit to Jhanjhrola Kheara and Sultanpur, Gurgaon

                                                                                          -  by Chandra Ganapathy

On Saturday 17 Sep 2011, I visited the two villages of Jhanjhrola Kheara and Sultanpur accompanied by Pranay Ranjan of Saciwaters. This is brief note on my observations and suggestions. Pranay the researcher working on this project briefed about the plans and the progress so far.

Jhanjhrola Kheara

The first stop was at Jhanjhrola Kheara’s Gram Panchayat (GP),  consisting of two villages – Jhanjhrola  the main village and Kheara, reportedly a neighboring settlement annexed to the main village. The population as per the data on the DDWS (Department of Drinking Water Supply) website is as given below:

S. No.
State
District
Block
Panchayat
Village
Habitation
SC Pop
GEN Pop
Total Population
1
HARYANA
GURGAON
FARRUKHNAGAR
JHANJROLA
JHANJROLA
JHANJROLA
240
2610
2850
2
HARYANA
GURGAON
FARRUKHNAGAR
JHANJROLA
JHANJROLA
Khera
220
496
716

The data on DDWS also states that 15% of SC population and 12% of General population (overall 13%) are uncovered. This implies an opportunity to access additional funding for uncovered pockets. Water quality issues are also recorded in 3 points out of 7 tested.

Kheara as per the above table and what Pranay narrated is a smaller settlement with nearly one third of the population belonging to the scheduled caste. The group we met was a group of - males - predominantly elders, with few young men joining the conversation, from Jhanjhrola village. The village had household connection, and those who were not connected had access to public hand pumps and stand posts. On the surface and as per the DDWS data, the BPL households in the GP are not very high in number. The GP reports 72% sanitation coverage.

The group was very cordial and received us pleasantly. The village men narrated their water issues as irregular supply, and contaminated water as the pipeline had corroded. They felt a dedicated treatment plant for the village with complete replacement of cement pipeline with PVC pipes as an appropriate solution. But for this there was no mention about quantity or accessibility issues. The group appeared to be aware of the Gram Panchayat powers, proceedings, to some extent about the schemes and provisions available, but apparently not sensitive to what they can or should do to address the water woes.

In their perspective, the major problem was uneven distribution of fertilizers, related malpractices by the officials, and not having a branch of the cooperative banks through which the distribution is organized. They narrated an incident where they had gone as a collective, to ensure that they got the fertilizers issued on timely basis. This was a one off experience, despite the success, not having triggered any long term action as a collective. When probed further they narrated a recent incident when women had gathered as a group (not entirely representative), went to the PHED office demanding action against 3-4 day break down in water supply, and the unresponsive attitude of the department staff. The incident turned violent with women attacking the officers and an FIR was lodged against them. The incident was generally deplored by the group of men who were chatting with us, one stated this was what happens when women take initiative. (a woman belonging to the family of a man present in the group was also part of the “women’s action group”, he had no comments about his opinion on the same!). The incident, however, had resulted in restoration of water supply. On requesting to meet any of the women who were part of the group, the men with folded hands requested not to engage them in conversation saying that they do not understand, are unaware etc.

According to the group of men there were no NGOs operating in their village, and they had no knowledge of any female groups operating in the village, or any development works like micro credit, entrepreneurial skills etc engaging women. The girl children also went to school, but not many of them got employmentciting there were not many opportunities for them. Transport was another issue in sending children to schools, colleges and girls for any employment.

Opportunities

  • Generally active and aware male leaders
  • Untapped youth force
  • Scope to propose new schemes for the uncovered 13% and access funds
  • A vibrant women’s action
  • To attract the support of interested institutions (not excluding corporate) who can support youth or women development
  • Observable affordability
  • GP has 3 women elected members and one SC women elected members
Risks

  •  Dominant Male positioning
  • Seemingly strong sentiments against women’s participation – not to mention action
  • Insensitive to think beyond agriculture, fertilizers, transport – though they are important men did not seem to consider issues which were women to tackle
Suggestions

  • Talking to elected women members (assumable that they may be controlled by their spouses) particularly the SC women members, engaging them in local training opportunities
  •  Tapping the youth force, into water mapping (Technology, quality, quantity and access) exercise and using the same to present a village water plan
  • Enabling the wider public particularly women and youth to understand and engage with village planning, as currently only those issues identified by male judgment and wisdom are getting noticed for action, which is again driven by male perception.
Sultanpur:

The next stop was at the village Sultanpur, in their Panchayat office. The Sarpanch was not available but we could meet a group of men. They were more receptive to discuss their village matters, and relatively open to discuss about the possibility of engaging and organizing women, though limited to the purpose of tailoring and handcrafts.

They were aware of their Panchayat’s plans and proposed work on water. After the meeting with the men, we crossed the railway track(that cut across the village) to visit a lady from Valmiki caste (SC). She narrated the humiliation they face, while water collection. They use the hand pump along with the dominant caste. The women from the dominant castes have to wash the pump and surroundings if it was previously used by SC users. For this purpose, they make SC women and children wait which leads to quarrels at the site. The caste divide and the visible dependence of the SC on the dominant caste was very striking. The land where they have built their house is in the name of Rajputs and has been gifted (for use not for ownership). The lady mentioned there are about 50 Valmiki families and an equal number of dalit families. One handpump per habitation should address their drinking water needs. The existing handpump has some minor technical problems, but this is not addressed to restore the pump functionality as there are no skills (was apparent that they didn’t feel the responsibility). There is clear sense of what they lack, but no direction on what they can do. After the brief chat with the lady, it seems essential to organize the youth (and women) in activities which may interest them and may provide great vocational opportunities like pump repairing, plumbing etc. 

The DDWS website data categorises the village as fully covered.

Opportunities

  • Generally active and aware male leaders, not averse to idea of mobilizing and organising women
  • Untapped youth force
  • To attract the support of interested institutions (not excluding corporate) who can support youth or women development
  • Affordability does not appear to be a major issue
  • GP has 4 women elected members and one SC women elected members
Risks

  • Dominant Male/ caste positioning
  • Underlying threat of further marginalization of SC as any action by them may seen as a threat by the dominant group
  • Dependence of the SC community on the other castes for land and living
Suggestions

  • It looks appropriate that considering some entrepreneurial training for the youth around hand pump repair and plumbing works, will be of interest to them and also enable to keep their pumps working
  • Impressing upon the GP on Hand pump Maintenance
  • Not sure how sensitive the GP will be, but it is important to present the disparity in the service levels, may be an exercise involving the youth and women on water mapping in the presence of interested officials and local leaders
  • Minor water supply scheme in dalit and valmiki community – deep well with motor pump, stand posts or house connections may be attempted if support is available for capital cost, and community is willing for O&M.
  • Reviving any of the women (may micro credit or vocational training as the entry point) has potential of ice breaker, opening the doors for women’s action
  • Talking to elected women members engaging them in local leadership or other training opportunities
  • Can both villages be linked to any institutions where some structured trainings and practical exercises can be arranged for the youth
Conclusion

The report is limited in scope that a day’s visit and the minimal interactions offered. The two villages though on the surface appeared not to be economically backward, yet there appears to be deep rooted deprivation based both on gender and caste. The communities especially the women and youth need intervention, not so much financial but a mindset change, facilitating them to realize their potential and the opportunities available, through structured exposure to skills and leadership, hand holding the possible transformation by organizing and enabling them to manage practical exercises like village assessment, planning, O&M etc, and connecting them to the officials and the service providers.
The GP leaders may be inspired to understand the full scope of opportunities available to them, and enable them to develop plans and proposals to access such support.

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