My work as Research Associate at SaciWATERs required me to collect data on the groundwater quality of villages under the Peri-Urban Project. After waiting for a while, I got a chance to speak with one of the senior hydrologists in the department. I spoke about what we (SaciWATERS) do and why we need such information. He suggested that I should sit and wait, while they process the information. This wait gave me the perfect chance to observe the problems people face with regard to groundwater and its extraction.
First a woman walked in - judging by her behavior, it felt she had made these rounds many times over. She wanted to install a tube-well; the duty officer said that it’s not possible, “the Supreme Court has banned any more borings”. She said that, “At least I am following the procedure; others just go on and install it”. He said that she should complain to the District Commissioner if someone puts it illegally, to which she replied that hurting others would not help her cause.
Moving on further, a group of villagers walked in - they exclaimed that sowing time of mustard has already come and wheat’s shall also come soon, thus giving rise to the acute need of boring. They pleaded for the approval to bore to which they got the standard reply of ‘it’s not allowed’. They said that without water , survival is not possible. The hydrologist said that he sympathized with them but could do nothing - he also said that he could have asked other departments to supply water if the need was for drinking water but in this case, they would have to explore other solutions. The people questioned if they should go ahead and bore themselves, to which he replied with a gentle smile “Take your call”. It seemed that he understood where they came from.
Next a man walked in, he said that he lived in Sitapur- one of the various unauthorized colonies in Gurgaon. His problem was different - the pump of his submersible had gotten spoilt and the police were not allowing him to replace it. He shared that even to remove the motor and repair it, the police ask for a Rs 20,000 bribe. The hydrologist said he had heard many such complaints, and urged that a group of 10 people should get-together and complain to the District commissioner. As the hydrologist was processing this man’s complaint, it became evident that his tube well was not registered; the man being ignorant about such a process said that he has come back to his retirement home and was always away and thus, never knew of such a problem. The hydrologist said that an unregistered tube-well even if ten years old , is illegal if not registered. Again when the person asked what he should do , he smiled and said, “Do what you have to , what can I say , it’s the supreme court’s order”. The man said that as the colony is illegal, private water tankers come in, and it’s really expensive to rely on them.
Through this ,we see how information is such an asset; surely some provision should be in place for people who could not get their wells registered for numerous reasons.
The hydrologist asked me, if I wanted a cigarette, I declined politely; he took a liking to me and asked me to come out for a walk. He expressed, “I know people will bore illegally; even I do not want to stop them. Where will they go - why did the government allow unauthorized colonies to settle? Either let them take water, or resettle them someplace else.” We had a small discussion on legal pluralism. He opined, “Yes, it’s something like that, if the law does not seem suitable for most of the population, people will start to make their own law and undertake such activities any which way.” A blanked ban does not seem a solution to me personally, groundwater should be accessible for drinking purposes at least. Definitely we need differential permissions and for once let’s hope that the common man in Gurgaon can benefit more than the construction industry.