Lam-Darhal, Rajpura, Pukharni villagers cry for ‘a drop of water’

Gopal Sharma

NOWSHERA, June 2:  Even after 70 years  of  independence from the British rule, a population of  over 35,000 souls  in remote LoC villages  of  Lam, Ladoka, Qila Darhal, Rajpura, Pukharni, Kalsian and Jhangar in Nowshera sector of Rajouri,  is crying for even ‘a drop of water’ during these hot summer days while most of the water sources have gone almost dry.
While majority of the water supply schemes have almost turned defunct with a meagre water available in the water sources, the PHE water pipes have also gone dry with nearly no flow of water in them. As the PHE Department Rajouri and Nowshera has failed  to ensure alternate tanker water supply to these  villagers, the public miseries have gone manifold during these hot summer days.
Under such a dry spell and intense water scarcity, the villagers are bound to fetch unhygienic  and unsafe water from nallahs or other springs from the distance ranging from 2 to 3 kms  on horses or ponies by paying exorbitant amount. This has become their compulsion to consume unsafe  water for their survival.
During these hours of crisis  and  in the absence of PHE water tankers supply, it is the Indian Army which has come to the rescue of border (LoC)  villagers  and rendering them help by offering tanker water supply. In many respects, these border people are  dependent on the Army. The Army authorities not only ensuring water supplies to their own camps/ units in these forward locations but also to the civilian population of  Lam, Kadoka, Darhal,  Jhangar, Kalsian etc.  At times of forest fires, the Army helps these villagers n extinguishing the same.
Excelsior team while interacting with a cross section of people from these remote areas this week found that  even after the 70 years of independence the people from this belt of Nowshera are still crying for safe drinking water.
One Mohd Aslam from Pukharni area said that  they get water supply hardly once a week. He said  the pipes have been laid in his  village but there is no flow of water in them. The locals are dependent on natural sources like a pond and nallah. But the water in pond and nallah has also almost dried up. ” We are bringing water from a distance of about 2 kms. Some times Army tankers provide supply. Several cattle die due to shortage of water  during hot summer days and  even after repeated request to the MLA and MLC, the water supply position could not improve in this area,” Aslam maintained.
One Noor Ahmed of a  forward village at Ladoka said that water supply schemes of the Government exist only on papers. He claimed that for the last one month, he has not seen water supply in his area. He said concerned PHE daily wagers do not work and even tell about the supply position or motor pumping condition.
“We are bringing water from a  Nallah at a distance of about one and half kilometre. Some times we bring water on ponies. Many times we projected our issue before the public representatives but no body listens to us. The public has been left to die without water. Here is only Army which is taking care of us and sharing their water supply with us during these hot summer days. No officer of the PHE Department Nowshera or Rajouri or others in the Administration visit us,” the LoC villager maintained.
One Kuldip Singh from Rajpura Kamila disclosed that water is the most  essential rather precious commodity here. He said  the villagers get water hardly once a week. The people are forced to buy water from pony-wallas and private water tanker. The PHE has virtually failed to ensure water supply. The small water taker charges Rs 2000 or even more  and the people are paying even Rs 800 for four tins of water to the pony wallas who bring it from a nallah about 3-4 kms away.  The public is consuming most unsafe water but it is their compulsion and question of survival.
One Jasbir Singh from Lam said that entire area is reeling under drought like situation. The Government must take effective steps to ensure adequate water supply to the people of this belt otherwise they should be settled at some location where they can be provided adequate water. He said life is not possible without water.
The people from several hamlets in this Lam- Darhal belt migrate to other locations in view of water crisis. He said there is about 75 % SC population in this belt and they have been deprived of essential supplies. But worst is the position of power supply.
Paramajeet  Singh, former Sarpanch from Qila Darhal said while there is long power curtailment of nearly 10-12 hours every day, the water supply is also very grim. He said that matter regarding water supply was taken up with the concerned public representatives and even the officers at Nowshera Sub Division but there is no improvement at all. He said during summer months every year, there is acute shortage of water  and people get water supply hardly after 3-4 days that too, hardly for 15-20 minutes. Several water hand pumps have gone defunct. He said water is the main problem of the people of this entire belt. Something on war footing is needed to be done by Government in this regard, the ex-Sarpanch maintained.
Chief Engineer PHE, Jammu Ashok  Gandotra, when contacted said that this is challenging time for the PHE department. He claimed that two Government and 13 private water tankers have been engaged under Nowshera PHE Division. Of the total 15, four have been engaged in Kalakote area, three in Sunderbani and 6 in Nowshera. He said about 10 water hand pumps were also given in the area on the recommendation of MLA/MLC last year and some tankers are also covering this border belt. Even then there is shortage of water tankers. Gandotra  said that  water discharge in water sources has gone low due to summers and this problem generally crop up only during summers.