Braving the lurking threat of avalanches and attacks by wild animals, women in some villages of this mountainous district of Jammu and Kashmir tread several-kilometre snowy track deep inside the forest to fetch drinking water from a natural source for daily use.
Nearly 100 families living on the slopes of three hamlets — Ganori, Kuthal and Naik Mohalla of Kahara tehsil — are considering boycott of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to lodge their protest against the “failure” of the administration to provide drinking water facility to them over the past seven decades.
“We have no other option but to put our lives at risk to fetch water from the natural fountain under the foothills of snow-peaked mountains deep inside the forest,” middle-aged Kulsuma Begum of village Ganori told agency.
Begum, along with three other villagers, had a narrow escape six years ago when she came under an avalanche while collecting water from the fountain.
“I have nightmares and shiver with fear whenever I think of that frightful incident. So many years have passed, but still I have to visit the spot everyday to collect the water for our survival,” she said.
Recalling the incident, Begum said she and others were collecting water when suddenly an avalanche struck from the mountain burying them.
“Luckily we got timely help and were rescued from the snow after four hours and airlifted to Jammu for specialised treatment.”
Raveesa Bano, 18, a student, said, “We live here dangerously by defying possible death every day, especially during the winter when there is heavy snowfall and the wild animals remain on prowl.”
She said centrally-sponsored Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and Open Defecation Free (ODF) slogans sounds good but a lot needs to be done to uplift the living standards of the people, especially those living on the hills.
“We too have dreams … To have running tap water in our homes and electricity round the clock,” Bano said.
Shah Nawaz Mir, panchayat member of Ganori-Kusharthawa, said despite several pleas to political representatives and the civil administration, nothing has been done to provide water supply to the villages.
“We are mulling the idea of boycotting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and the assembly elections as a protest,” Mir said.
He, however, quickly added that they feel it is not right to stay away from the democratic exercise as anyway the political representatives would get elected.
“It is better to be part of the process and hope for a positive change,” Mir said.
He said there are several centrally-sponsored schemes aimed at providing drinking water in rural areas but “we do not know why we are denied the facility”.
When contacted Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Thathri, Mohammad Anwar Banday assured that necessary steps would be taken to ensure portable water to the villages.
“This is a serious issue as we are bound to provide basic amenity to every villager and to provide healthy drinking water on priority. I will send a team of engineers of the concerned department as soon the snow melts to conduct a survey and we will start installation of pipes on war-footing,” he said.