The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4) shows that 45.9% of scheduled tribe members were in the lowest wealth bracket compared to 26.6% of scheduled castes in India.
For the last fifteen years, 38 scheduled tribe families belonging to Irular community living at the periphery of Oragadam village dominated by the Backward community (BC) in Thirukazhukundram Block of Kanchipuram District, Tamilnadu. These 38 families are victims of social stigma and continuous discrimination from the dominating community.
They live in the thatched houses under the reserved forest area with no land title. The basic amenities are missing in the settlement and even for water they walk for almost 2 km every day.
To overcome the situation, they dug a small well with 10 ft depth but the water was not suitable for drinking and can only be used for only cleaning and washing. The community approached village panchayat for the supply of drinking water facility.
Acting on the request, panchayat constructed overhead tank and provide water to the community. The tank is located between the BC and ST settlement and the water was supplied to both the communities with 2 different pipe connections controlled by a gate valve.
Taking advantage of the non-functioning panchayat institution, BC community inhumanly closed the water supply for ST settlement. The issue was repeatedly raised with the ex-panchayat president and the Block Development Officer (BDO) by the ST community but nothing concrete was achieved.
Dismayed by the response, the ST community decided to dig a bore well to resolve their water crisis. They planned to mobilise funds and loan from the SHG. Employed youth from the community voluntarily contributed Rs.300/- PM for 6 months along with 3 families who had also contributed Rs.3000/- for the same. An amount of Rs. 75,000/- was raised through the loan from Micro Finance. They spent a total amount of Rs.143055/- in which Chengalpattu Rural Development Society (CRDS) showed its solidarity by way of motivation and contributed Rs. 32,000/- as an interest-free loan. Now the community is enjoying uninterrupted potable water supply for the 38 families.
Caritas India personnel was astonished to know from the SHG leaders that the ST community is willing to share water with BC area in the event of water scarcity. They believe water is given by nature, it belongs to all and nobody has the right to deny water whatsoever the reason may be. Dr. John Arokiaraj, Caritas Zonal Manager – South says that this community is unique in the sense that the people are practical and dignity conscious.
Even during Vardah cyclone response, this community denied accepting dry ration as they did not lose any food material but rather gave a proposal for Tarpaulin sheet to cover the thatched roof which actually was the genuine need of the hour at that time.
Dr. John places his special appreciation to Mr.Robert, the Udhayam Programme Co-ordinator from CRDS team for reaching out to this unreached but most needy community and giving right orientation.
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