Many women in urban and semi-urban areas of the state spend hours waiting for a public tap to come alive,those in rural areas have to walk miles to get two pots of water from distant farms.
It is 2 pm in this small town Jetpur,once-known for its saree industry in Rajkot district. With other women of Najawala Para area on Jetpur-Junagadh road,Naseem Solanki (40) is guarding her pots in a long queue while waiting for a public tap at the entrance of the street to show signs of life. As that takes up to two hours,four other women pick up a quarrel over position of their pots in the queue.
I have put my two beda (a bedu is a pair of pots having cumulative capacity of 15 litres) in the queue since 8 am. I expect to get some water around 5 pm. Then,I will again put them in queue at 10 pm so that I get my turn to fill them up by 10 am the next morning, Solanki,a mother of two children,says.
There is a public tubewell in Najawala Para. A worker of Jetpur-Rajgadh Municipality operates a submersible pump there from 6 am to 1 pm and and from 4 pm to 6 pm.
Solankis house doesnt have a water connection from distribution lines of municipality and she has to line up at another public water stand nearby. But the municipality supplies water at that stand only once in 15 days, Solanki says. For the last two months,the middle-aged woman has been spending more than 10 hours daily chasing water.
During monsoon,there was lots of water in this tubewell and we had to just push the start button. But for the last two months,water in this well comes on and off, she says. Solanki wakes up at 5 am,prepares food for her husband and two sons while not to forgetting to put her steel pots in the queue in between.
After her husband Mehboob leaves for duty at shop of a wholeseller at 9 am,Solankis water chase begins.
Hers is a 20-member joint family and requires a lots of water. So,from 9 am to 1 pm,she and her three sisters-in-law do 10 rounds of an automobile service centre where the owner obliges them with water. The service centre,which has a private borewell,is half-a-kilometre away near the Jetpur bus stand. Solanki and other women place a bedu each on their heads and carry 20-litre bucket in hands.
Sometimes,I also force my sons Moin (13) and Nadim (8) to help me get daily quota of water by carrying steel water pots of five-litre capacity on their head before their leave for school at 12 pm. Last week,Nadim slipped while carrying a pot and elders of locality chided me for being harsh on the young man, Solanki,who has studied till Class X says.
The family doesnt have a storage tank. So,they have put drums and large tubs at the entrance of their residence.
Unless I am preparing food or sleeping,I am busy fetching water. I want to dust off my house but the water scarcity would not permit it, Solanki says with a smile.
She concedes that deep-down she wishes relatives do not pay visit at this time of the year. But the local culture is to treat guests like gods and hence they are welcome anytime though, she adds.