By Priyanka Sharma:
Bhema Ji is sixty-five and on any given day; you will see him and his family making as many as thirty trips, from their house to the nearest hand pump one kilometre away, to meet their daily needs of drinking water.
“It has been four years that we stopped using groundwater for drinking purposes. We meet our daily need of potable water by fetching it from a hand pump situated across the road. The water of our village tastes saline”, said Bhema Ji.
Suffering from skeletal fluorosis and advised by the doctor not to drink fluoride-ridden water, Bhema Ji found an alternative and is now living his life.
Kacchota village is situated in the Sarada block of Udaipur and is home to roughly 150 families. As per Bhagwan Ji, an ex-ward panch, it has been ten years that officials from Jaipur have been coming and collecting samples of water, but no real relief has been provided to them.
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has set the maximum permissible level of fluoride in drinking water at 1 ppm. In the Udaipur district, most villages in the blocks of Mavli, Salumber, Sarada, the fluoride concentrations in the water is more than 1.5 ppm as per reports published in the journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry.
Regular intake of fluoride-rich water can cause dental and skeletal fluorosis. Many senior citizens in the Kacchota village have a hunched back and walk with the help of sticks.
Due to the mottling of teeth, eating food is a painful experience for them on an everyday basis. The youngest victim of skeletal fluorosis in the village is Ramlaal. He is a ten-year-old student studying in a government school, and his legs are shaped outward due to the calcification of the ligaments.
It has been two months, and the tank that was supposed to supply drinking water to the village hasn’t received a single drop of water. The tank was set up seven years ago and supplies drinking water only fifteen days a month.
Just like many Indian villages, Kacchota village also maintains and perpetuates the discriminatory caste based system. Kacchota Bhagal, a part inhabited by tribal population, had received water filters from the government eight years ago and since then, no one has approached them.
Earning their livelihood through daily wages, these families cannot afford water filters. The village situated in the tribal belt of Udaipur lacks employment opportunities and migration to nearby cities for daily wage jobs is the common source of livelihood. The villagers even went and protested at the block office of Sarada for some relief from the fluoride-ridden water, but in vain.
Bhagwan Ji, with pleading eyes, informs that even after running from pillar to poles, nobody has paid heed to them.