Rough Patch

Years of trudging for water left the women of Nagdarwadi village with bald patches. But after a successful water scheme run by the women...

Written by Shashi Priya | Published:January 18, 2009 11:41 am

Years of trudging for water left the women of Nagdarwadi village with bald patches. But after a successful water scheme run by the women,they are now locked in a dispute with the men over control of the project
WHEN Shobhabai Sakharam Kendre was slapped twice by a zilla parishad member in full public view,she stumbled but it did nothing to break her spirit. Shobhabai is the president of the Sanyukt Mahila Samiti that brought water to this once parched village but now,the scheme is locked in a dispute as the men of the village want to wrest control.

Till six years ago,the women of Nagdarwadi village in Nanded district of Maharashtra could be identified from their bald patches—that’s what years of trudging to Ramanwadi,a village that’s four km from theirs,with water pots on their heads did to them. But in 2004,after 60-year-old Girija Bai Kishen Kendre died while making one of the daily trips to Ramanwadi,the women decided they had had enough of the drudgery.

“We did not want our daughters to meet the same fate. We were worried they would go bald like our mothers and many of us had,” says Chendubai Kondiba Kendre,who used to spend at least four hours a day making trips to Ramanwadi.

After Girija Bai’s death,the women got together to build a community well in the village. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development,after a technical survey,granted the women a loan of Rs 5 lakh for digging the well,a motor pump set,an electric connection,pipelines,valves,distribution tanks and internal pipes. The women got together to implement the project by setting up the Sanyukt Mahila Samiti. “We got work to start on the well,laid main and internal distribution pipelines,and got storage tanks built. Even when the well was being built,the men were not too happy with women taking the lead,” says Anitabai Kushal Kendre,secretary of the Sanyukt Mahila Samiti.

Four years later,with the project a success,the women are up against another opposition: men in the village who want to wrest control of the project.

Once the well project took off in 2005,the women did hand over charge to the men. But two years later,the women have taken back control,alleging mismanagement of funds. “The men made a complete mess of it. The funds,maintenance and supply—everything was mismanaged,” says Anitabai Kendre.

“The Samiti was in our name but we gave it to the men to manage,” says Bhivrao Nagorao Kendre,a Samiti member. “For six months,the men collected money on the Samiti’s behalf as village customs do not allow women to visit homes to ask for money. But during those six months,the Samiti lost

Rs 40,000. The men did not show us any accounts,” says Bhivrao.

Since then,the ongoing battle between the two sexes has turned into a full-fledged war over control of water supply. Fifteen families in this village of 45 households recently backed out from paying the nominal Rs 15 that’s collected for the upkeep of the well.

Three months ago,Shobhabai Sakharam Kendre says she had to sell her jewellery to repair the motor. “We were the ones who worked to build the well. The men took no interest then. Despite that,we handed over control to the men,but they disappointed us,” says Shobhabai. For Shobhabai and the other women,the bald patches may have receded but the rough patches remain.
_SHASHI PRIYA

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