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MP: Sidhi Urination Victim's Village Gets Hand Pump, but aid has Dried up

Kashif Kakvi |
Overdue for a decade, the district administration put a hand pump outside the house of Dashmat Rawat, the Sidhi urination victim.
Overdue for a decade, the district administration put a hand pump outside the house of Dashmat Rawat, the Sidhi urination victim.

Bhopal: The Sidhi urination incident proved a blessing in disguise for the residents of Karaundi village. Their struggle for clean water ended with a new hand pump.

Overdue for a decade, the district administration dug up a 400-metre-deep hand pump outside the mud house of Dashmat Rawat -- victim of Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi urination row -- within a week of the incident. 

It is the second handpump in the tribal hamlet, as over 60 families have depended on just one hand pump installed decades ago.

The Sidhi urination incident took place at Kubri village in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh. In a viral video in July, the accused was purportedly seen urinating on Kol tribal Dashmat in an inebriated state. The incident caused an uproar.

The villagers worship the newly installed handpump but also express their disappointment for what happened with Dashmat. "Dashmat ke sath bura hua per is se gaon me hand pump aa gaya is se badi baat nahi ho sakti. Iski mang hum salo se kar rahe the (What happened to Dashmat was terrible, but it made way for the new handpump, which is great. We have been asking for the handpump for years),” said Bankelal Rawat (55), Dashmat’s neighbour.

While thanking the district administration, the tribal villagers said that if the earlier hand pump dried up in summer or faced mechanical breakdown, the families were either at the mercy of the well-off, upper-caste landlords of the village or had to fetch water from the nearest hand pump a kilometre away. 

“It took weeks to repair the malfunctioning hand pump, making us dependent on the landlords of the village who have separate borewells in their homes,” recalled Dashmat’s wife Asha Rawat (35).

Asha remembers how she struggled to access clean water, especially in the summer. She had to walk to great lengths to fetch water in scorching heat for the family. 

She also mentions how a toilet built under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan outside her house became a ruin due to a lack of water. “Half of my problems are resolved with the installation of the new hand pump outside the house,” she says.

In July this year, a video clip from 2020 went viral in which an upper caste man, Pravesh Shukla, allegedly associated with the ruling party, was seen urinating on Dashmat. The incident created a furore across the country. To pacify the public anger, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan called Dashmat to the CM’s House, washed his feet, and promised several things.

Further, Chauhan turned to bulldozer justice and ordered the demolition of a portion of the accused’s house, which later backfired in the Assembly polls.

On July 6, Dashmat returned to Karundi village with many promises and assurances. As soon as he reached the village, the district administration sanctioned Rs 1.5 lakh for a home under PM Awas Yojana, a hand pump outside his mud house, and gave financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh, according to a district official.

pm awas

Apart from that, the 400-metre muddy road connecting the village to the Sidhi-Singrauli highway was levelled up with crushed stone. The villagers, however, alleged that the promises of extending Nal Jal Yojana in the village, an all-weather road (damer roads), and electrification are still due.

Pravesh Shukla, arrested under the stringent sections of the National Security Act, 1980, and SC/ST Atrocities Act, 1989, after the video clip created a public outage, secured bail within three months of jail. The Sidhi district court granted him bail in October as the police failed to produce evidence, and the case fell flat before the court, says his advocate, Arvind Mishra.

Shukla has also filed a suit against the bulldozer action of the state government, which the High Court admitted and sought a reply from the state government. He has demanded heavy compensation for losing eight lakh rupees in demolition.

The upper caste landlords of the Karundi village brought a handful of tribals to the village almost a century ago to work in their fields, giving them permanent settlements. They still live in the old tiny mud houses, earning bread as agricultural labourers like their ancestors. With time, a family of a dozen swelled, but their socio-economic condition didn’t improve.

One can understand their condition from the fact that Dashmat’s 10-year-old son, Rahul Rawat, is the only tribal from the village who has ever gone to the school.

Dashmat, who was in the limelight since he returned to the village after the chief minister named his Sudama [a close friend] in July, is now leading an ordinary life. Rawat tasted both fame and fear in equal measures. The direct access he used to enjoy with the chief minister ended after he began to issue blunt media statements against the government and CM Chouhan for not fulfilling his demands -- one of them was offering a government job.

When his demand for a government job was not fulfilled and financial aid dried up, he became a labourer. But it was difficult to find one as two police personnel were scouting them. The family felt relieved when the government withdrew his security soon after the Assembly polls on November 18. “After the incident, nobody was giving him work. Moreover, seeing the cops, people would not employ him,” Dashmat’s wife told NewsClick on the phone.

Almost three years ago, Dashmat worked at a cement factory in Rajasthan and earned Rs 14,000 a month, but since his return to Sidhi after his parent’s death, he has been working as a labourer to make Rs 300 a day. He has to support a family of four.

Now, the husband and wife look for labourer jobs each morning after dropping their son to school and the daughter to their kin.

We have got a house and access to water, but it is still hard to arrange two meals a day,” says his wife, Asha Rawat who was looking for a job. The family gets the ration benefits under the public distribution scheme, but the rising inflation pinches them.

With government’s support, Dashmat’s one-room house was constructed, but installing gate, windows and plaster is still due. Dashmat was lucky to have received Rs 1.5 lakh under the PM Awas but not the other villagers like Satyabhan Rawat, Heerala Rawat [30] and Bankelal Rawat, who either received Rs 1.20 lakh or 1 lakh. Between Rs 30,000 and 50,000 go into bribery, allege the villagers.

One can see a dozen under-constructed homes in the village, which were sanctioned under the PM Awas Scheme between 2018 and 2019 but are still incomplete even after four years.

Satyabhan Rawat, who got Rs 1 lakh under the scheme in 2019, is still living in a tiny mud-house as the funds dried up. “We have also taken a loan from moneylenders to complete the house. But the surge in construction material prices after the lockdown forced us to stop the work,” he lamented.

The story of Dashmat’s neighbour Bankelal and his brother is no different. They got the benefits of the PM Awas Scheme but could only succeed in constructing pillars before the fund dried up. “We have also used Rs 4,000 from our savings but couldn’t complete it.”

Dashmat is now enjoying some fame in and around his village. People want to take photographs with him. But beyond the fame also lurks a fear of possible retribution and resentment by the privileged caste groups.

Rawat, struggling to get a daily wage job, has joined the political outfit Azad Samaj Party to get support in times of attack. He is also contemplating migrating to another state in search of a job if he is not given work in his village.

“Now the situation in the village is peaceful,” says Ganga Prasad Sahu over Dashmat’s fear. Sahu, the hamlet’s sarpanch, says, “He is concerned about the villagers urging him to drop the lawsuit is legitimate. It is undeniable that Pravesh comes from a powerful family and may influence others, but if that case arises, he can migrate; one cannot influence everyone.”

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