School dropout rates have increased by 22%...

Although it should be given far more priority, a sufficient (safe and hygienic) water supply is the foundation of a strong economy. Only 4 percent of the world's freshwater resources are found in India, despite having 18 percent of the world's population. According to publicly accessible government statistics, India is a water-stressed country since the national water availability per person is only approximately 1500 m3 per year, which is less than the 1700 m3 per year threshold that is considered to indicate water stress.

Indian traditional water bodies, also known as ponds, tanks, lakes, vayalgam, ahars, bawdis, talabs, and other names, are incredibly diverse and distinctive. They may be found across the nation. India, on the other hand, is now experiencing a severe water scarcity that is affecting several major cities and affecting 100 million people directly. By 2030, 40 percent of India's population won't have access to safe drinking water, according to reports from the United Nations and Niti Ayog. The issue will get worse as a result of the water demand exceeding the supply by two to one.

When youngsters in India spend hours in fetching water, school attendance falls. According to The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), 2017 report for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene, school dropout rates have increased by 22% in states that are experiencing drought. Access to potable water is directly related to school attendance and dropout rates. On the other side, there are few cases where due to lack of proper infrastructural facilities, the school going students are forced to use public toilet and open area for natural bio calls. These situations are resulting in protests against school and district administration.

Recently, on July 16, 2022, students protested at Mothabari Nayabazar High School in Malda, raising allegations that teachers have been asking them to bring water from home. They claim that they are getting sick due to lack of water this summer. However, three of the school’s tubewells are bad. The school authorities are not fixing it.

Similar protests were held by Government Primary School students in Mendhar on May 26, 2022, citing the absence of basic amenities on the school's grounds. The children shouted for the provision of drinking water on the school grounds while they held plates in their hands. They assert that the school hasn't had access to a water source for many years. Reports of protest are repeatedly coming from several states across India highlighting the failure of district administration and other government functionaries responsible for water management.

On June 30, 2022, members of the Kirti Kisan Union from different districts of the state of Punjab today staged a protest in Mohali demanding a solution to the deepening water crisis in Punjab. Despite being the dominant state of agriculture, punjab is facing severe shortage of water for farming.

Residents of Division 31 of the Vaduthala West region municipal corporation in Kochi protested on June 10, 2022, outside the executive engineer's office of the Kerala Water Authority, calling for an end to the drinking water scarcity problem that has affected many areas of Kerala.

On July 12, 2022, the move by Tamil Nadu to draw water from Aliyar dam to the town of Ottanchathiram and two adjacent town panchayats has led farmers in Kerala’s Palakkad district and the Opposition Congress to protest and blame the LDF government for compromising on the state’s interests.

The Sumlar villagers in north Kashmir's Bandipora district on July 05, 2022 came out in protest and blocked the road for facing acute potable water shortage. The locals had been betrayed by the promises of continuous water supply by the administration despite having a freshwater stream passing nearby and the potable water supply was nearly negligible.

The villagers said that the water pipes are dirty and on various occasions snakes, earthworms, and rats have been found in them. “There was a water supply in the village, it was not serving any purpose and the water was also unfiltered due to the absence of the filtration plant in the area.

JJM employees and officials in the administration were also not paying heed to their repeated requests and they were being forced to consume dirty water.

Residents from various colonies in Ludhiana, Punjab South constituency staged a protest over non-supply of electricity and water on July 06, 2022.

On July 04, 2022 villagers from Kottaikaranpatti in Sanarpatti Panchayat Union near Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, staged a protest with empty pots opposite the Collectorate campus on Monday. Their demands were related to regular water supply. People had staged a road roko in their village, a few months ago also, which even caught the attention of the Block Development Officer. “Despite taking the matter to the Panchayat officials umpteen number of times and even highlighting the issue at the grama sabha meetings, people of the locality got tired of the lackadaisical attitude of the government officials

On May 26, 2022, hundreds of farmers assembled in Palanpur, in the Banaskantha district of north Gujarat, to demand that the state investigate the prospect of filling the water reservoirs at Karmavat Lake and Mukteshwar Dam with Narmada water to alleviate the region's water scarcity. People of the area are facing severe water shortage for more than two decades as annual rainfall is less and underground water is depleting. Farmers have to purchase water tankers to feed domestic animals. If these water reservoirs are filled with Narmada water, it can recharge underground water, because of which groundwater level can increase.

A programme to dig lakes in the region with people's participation. This will reduce dependency on Narmada waters, if there is good rain.

On June 29, 2022, local residents from Periki Veedhi, Velampeta, Medhara Veedhi, and Vishakhapatnam are up in arms against the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) for irregular supply and bad quality of drinking water to their areas, here. Alleging irregular supply of water for the past two weeks, a large number of women have staged a protest blocking the roads in their areas. In a knee-jerk reaction, officials released water to the areas which was found contaminated by the residents.

On March 22, 2022, Reeling under acute scarcity of water, villagers of Nuasahi in Danagadi block, Jajpur, Odisha, resorted to road blockade with empty pitchers and buckets demanding a permanent solution to the crisis. The agitators alleged that they have to wait for hours to fetch drinking water from the lone tube-well in the village. The tube-well does not discharge adequate water due to depletion of the groundwater level. They requested the officials to make an alternate arrangement to meet their potable water needs. However, all their pleas have fallen on deaf ears of Block Development Officials despite of various previous applications drawing their attention towards the issue.

In Odisha only, a large number of residents from villages on the banks of the Kharosotra River marched to the government project site at Bharigada village, claiming that the project will divert water from a river near Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park. It can be said that the government, without taking note of villager’s right to access to water. In spite of immediately starting the work of building a barrage on the river, the government should have made an arrangement to store the water before diverting the river for this project.

Not only in India but other nations (both developed and developing) are also facing protests on similar line and the matters are being reported since the beginning of the year 2022. It is important to bring up one of the events that occurred on April 23, 2022, in Manningtree, Essex, UK, where hundreds of people protested against sewage being dumped into rivers and waterways by water providers. For a total of more than 2.6 million hours in 2017, water providers released raw sewage into British waterways 372,533 times.

Musina, the northernmost town in the Limpopo province of South Africa, was shut- down for one week in May, 2022 in protest over water. Just like India, there also the water supply is the responsibility of the District Municipality. The legal issue arose was that water supply had been cut off without notice by the District Municipality, which is responsible for water.

Similar protests took place in Isfahan, Iran, on November 9, 2021, as hundreds of people gathered to express their outrage after the city's vital river dried up as a result of a drought and diversion. The large march, which drew together farmers and other citizens from all around the province of Isfahan, was the biggest since November 9 protests over the water problem began.

So, Water shortage is a global problem. It is really an alarming situation for all of us. The crisis is intensifying day by day due to mismanagement of three sources of water i.e. groundwater, river-canal water and rainwater. In India, the right to access to water of the citizens enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India are being robbed by the Union Government through the agenda of centralization.

Employees and officials in the administration should pay attention to the issues of the locals. They must not forget that they are appointed to redress the grievance of not getting access to clean drinking water.

These above-mentioned incidents of showing protest by modes of blocking of roads and highways, shutting down the schools and industries, damaging public properties, constraining the agricultural activities etc. in lieu of demand of basic water supply is definitely going to impact the Indian Economy in the long run. The only possible solution visible to the issue is that the strict laws regulating water management system should be brought by the state legislatures fixing the accountability of district board and appointed officers for the same.

Thus, each and every state government need to act sensitively on matters of protest for adequate supply of water for drinking and sanitation purposes by all but especially by the children and tillers of the soil. We know that the country’s economy will work only when we will ensure the attendance of our school children in schools and by ensuring the protection of farmer’s right to carry the nation forward with their kingly might by tilling the soil. If both are not provided with the basic facilities, it would turn the clock backwards in terms of development of our nation.



Author  - Sarvesh Kumar Shahi, Assistant Professor, School of Law, KIIT Deemed to be University, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha

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