Rajasthan Assembly Elections: The Parched Voters
ON THE ELECTION TRAIL -In Alwar people just want water
In Rajasthan, Assembly Election campaigns are in full swing with candidates being selected and campaign trails organised. However, the issues of the state that existed years back, are still the same. From the water crisis to women's health, the voters’ issues are still the same.
Located 150 km south of Delhi and 150 km north of Jaipur, Alwar District is famous for its mustard crop, manufacturing of Ray Ban eyeglasses, beer production plants and the frozen food industry.
As elections are around the corner, The Citizen spoke to the locals in Alwar to understand their issues and whether the candidates are addressing them.
Viren Singh, social worker and a resident of Alwar said that the area is still brimming with issues that have not been catered to for decades. These include water crisis, gender issues, alcohol abuse mob lynching among others.
However, the water crisis became a prominent issue in many areas of Alwar over the years. Where water shortage is one issue, the bad quality of water which is leading to a health crisis, is emerging as another.
“Barring a few areas in Alwar, the majority of Rajasthan has a major water crisis. The situation in some areas of Alwar is so dire that the underground water comes out as foam. I personally have visited many wards and have found out that the situation is quite bad,” Singh, who along with his wife Sarita,also runs a small civil society for marginalised communities, said.
Meanwhile, The Citizen visited Imaratbas, a small village in Alwar, located 30 minutes from the city. When The Citizen visited, the womenfolk were working in either fields or their homes. Starting their day at 5 A.M., these women retire to bed only at 11 P.M. The women complained that water is a major crisis.
Sheetal Devi, who tends to the field said that there is not enough water for farming. “While there is water for drinking, we are struggling with a lack of water that is affecting our crops. The rains are being affected and without limited water things only get worse for us,” she said.
The women farmers grow mustard seeds, onions, bajra among other things. Sheetal Devi said that lack of water has impacted their crops.
The average annual rainfall in Rajasthan has increased to 492.4 millimetres in the last 11 years (2009-2020) from the normal of 419 mm, according to The Monsoon Report, 2020 (Rajasthan) by India Meteorological Department.
Anita, who sat along with her younger sister said that even while they get water, the quality is very bad. “In our village every woman has low hemoglobin, which we feel is due to the consumption of this water,” Anita said.
Most of the women were extremely thin and said that while their diet was adequate, the water quality might be the reason for this. “Any woman who marries and comes to this village faces this. Most of the women when they get married are healthy, however that changes when they come here,” Anita said.
Devi, now 75-year-old, was 15 when she got married and came to this village. Ever since, she has seen numerous things. While water has become a major issue, the dirty water that collects due to rain, has become a menace for the people, resulting in children getting sick.
“We are really tired of going through this. Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed when it comes to development. There are no roads here, the water collection gives rise to mosquitoes and then our children get impacted due to that,” Devi added.
When asked whether any candidate currently and previously have taken up these issues in elections, Sunita, who is Anita’s sister, said that the politicians have never done anything but made huge promises.
“We will not fully blame it on the government, but the candidates need to work harder and listen to their complaints. Even if there are schemes in place, they do not reach us because of the administration,” Sunita said.
The women agreed that the candidates usually ignore these issues, which are major for the people. “When we question them, they ignore us,” Sunita added.
So far, the candidates have not campaigned in the village, but the women told The Citizen, they are going to take up these issues. “We need to vote for a person who actually works and is not just words,” Anita added.