While one part of the country is suffering from massive floods, another part of the country is reeling under severe droughts. In these drought-hit areas, safe drinking water is a luxury for many, especially those who are from the poor and marginalised sections of the society. In Maharashtra, some school students from Beed district took this issue up and led a successful protest demanding safe drinking water recently.
On July 17, students from Godavari High School at Majarath in Beed, under the banner of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) started their protest in front of the Panchayat Samiti office, demanding safe drinking water for their school. “The authority had cut the water supply to our school. Following which, we went there and met the authorities. We have even told them that we are ready to fill the forms and pay the tax,” said Aniket Waghmare, one of the protesting students.
“But, the authorities have not done anything in for us under pressure from the Sarpanch,” he added.
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Since the authority was not ready to meet their demand, they launched a protest. As the protest progressed, more and more students along with their parents also joined them. After 30 hours of protest, the students have called off their protest over the assurance of Tahsildar that water connection will be given within 4 days.
“Maharashtra has a long history of being drought-hit, and many a time, the reckless use of groundwater by the corporates, high rises and other commercial use have further deepened this crisis. Thus, SFI, which is celebrating its 50 year anniversary, took the campaign of saving water and making water available for everyone,” SFI said a statement.
“Like this, many protests have been taking place in Beed and Nanded districts, especially in the tribal belts, under the banner of SFI for safe drinking water,” said VP Sanu, all India president of SFI.
Beed and Nanded districts come under the Marathwada region of the state. Marathwada, one of the worst drought-hit regions in the state, has witnessed high number of farmer suicides over the years. As per the 2011 census, more than 80% population of Beed, a drought prone district, lives in villages. Their main livelihood is agriculture, which is dependent on rainfall. The monsoon affects the yield of rain-fed farms which produce a variety of crops including cotton, soya bean, sugarcane, sorghum and millet.
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From January 1 to July 15 this year alone, 458 farmers have committed suicide in Marathwada region. According to an official from the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner office, highest number of suicides have been reported from the Beed district with 104 cases during the same period.
In 2018 too, Beed had recorded the highest number of farmer suicides- 125 cases- in Marathwada.
On October 31, 2018, the state government of Maharashtra declared Beed as one of the 26 severely drought-hit districts on based on various indicators including rainfall deficit, reservoir storage, groundwater index and soil moisture. The average rainfall in Beed during 2018 was 334.70 mm.
In 2019, though the Vidarbha and Marathwada have gone through drought, at the same time, Konkan and Central Maharashtra regions recorded surplus rainfall. As per the data from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Konkan and Central Maharashtra have received excess rainfall of 20% and 15% respectively, during June 1 and July 14. At the same time, Vidarbha and Marathwada have recorded a deficit rainfall of 30% and 31%, respectively.
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