A Tilakpur household
From the village of Tilakpur in Bhagalpur, Bihar, comes the story of 56-year-old Rukmani Devi, who has been a resident of Tilakpur for more than 45 years now. Married at the age of 3, Rukmani Devi has two sons and two daughters -- all married and with a total of 10 members in her family. Currently living with her two sons, she shares a rough dynamic with her sons and daughters-in-law, but is glad to take care of her grandchildren. Apart from her family issues, Rukmani Devi is facing larger problems of poor water quality, lack of proper drainage system and flooding.
The village of Tilakpur faces problems of water clogging, poor sanitation, and no proper drainage system, owing to which the issue of availability of clean water is one of high concern. The village does not have a proper drainage system and the wastewater from houses gets collected in a small pond-like structure called poker, which again seeps down in groundwater and further pollutes it.
Even though some people use their neighbour’s hand pump as their pump is either not working or their water is not drinkable, Rukmani Devi explains how that isn’t always the solution. Many times, the neighbours refuse to help. Since her hand pump also ends up providing bad quality water, Devi resorts to boiling her water on wood and mud chullah. Sometimes, that too is not possible every time, especially when her thirst overpowers her. The dark-coloured water for which she has to settle for often makes her family members and grandchildren sick, making it essential for her to visit a doctor again. For a family, that sustains on construction work and farm labour, even the doctor’s fee and medicine costs are a huge burden.
“This whole situation makes me feel very helpless, sad, and frustrated. I remember in old days we did not have this problem of water and it was much better and drinkable but for past 9-10 years we have started facing this problem and it is getting worse day by day,” she says. As the situation of water is continuously declining, Devi continuous to face health-related issues after using dark-colored smelling water for drinking and making food and now this is increasing day by day. They face stomach issues, indigestion of food some skin-related issues like dryness. Stomach aches are very common, but now they have stopped visiting doctors for this as it was getting very difficult for us to go and see a doctor every time. She also shared that many of the houses in the village don’t have toilets also and even if some of them do, then in that case they don’t have a water connection inside it.
For Rukmani Devi clean water will make all the difference in the world. Getting a good quality of water would protect her family members from getting sick, allowing them to save on some money (Rs 500 as doctor fee). This will allow them to use this amount for more needful things. “We can build our house properly which is only half-built. If such changes come in near future then I will feel very happy about it and will give my blessings to those who help them, as I don’t have anything else to give,” she says. She also added that they will be able to work for more hours and will finally be able to live a healthy and prosperous life.
Rukmani Devi is one of many stories in Tilakpur that continue to survive on harmful water. Most of the village doesn’t even have hand pumps and any proper draining system which adversely affects their health. Water being a big necessity affects their daily lives. Most villagers are living in hope of help from either the government or other organizations. They hope to one day find clean water in their houses so their children see a better and happier tomorrow.