In Kalamandargi village in Kalaburgi district, the daily task of drawing water for the household has become a dangerous task for the young people in the village. To get water, villagers, often the young women in the family, have to climb into the well by a series of narrow stones jutting out of the wall of the well to form a rough stair.
On April 30, 19-year-old Anita Suryakant became at least the second girl to be injured by falling around 20 feet into the stone-lined well where water has to be arduously drawn cup by cup from a small puddle at the bottom of a mostly dry well. Her brother Lokesh, 23-years-old, said that this was the first time that Anita had gone down into the well, when the incident occurred.
Anita in the hospital
Anita was shifted by ambulance to a medical facility in Kalaburgi.
Just four days earlier, another girl Chaithi Ishwar, aged 12, had also fallen into the well and been hurt.
Chaithi (in white) with her mother and sister
For this village of around 3,000 inhabitants, the water situation has been dire as the community well has been almost completely dry for the last two months. The only available water at most times is a tiny puddle of dirty yellow water that fills in a trickle at the bottom of the well.
Although the village receives four tankers of water every day, even this tanker water gets filled into the well. Two syntex tanks with six attached pipes were built in the village for distributing water from tankers, said Mahesh, a resident of the village. But repeated fights over unequal access to the pipes supplying water from the tanks, leaving some families without adequate water, resulted in the decision to fill the tanker water in the well.
Besides, the water that is received from the tankers is insufficient for the village, which is predominantly inhabited by Lingayat families, who all own livestock besides land. Each house ideally requires 30 to 40 pots of water per day. Once this inadequate supply of water begins to be exhausted, it is only by climbing into the well and slowly scoopinng up the dregs out of the well that families are able to draw water.
Anita was rendered unconscious by the fall, and she was brought out of the well in a basket placed on a harness
Another girl of her age, Kaveri, was also in the well at the same time.
Kaveri’s mother Thangamma says she will not her daughter go down into the well again. “Whatever water we get from the tanker, we will make do only with that. But how can I let my daughter climb into the well again?” she said.
Chaithi’s mother Nagamma, says that although Chaithi had a smaller fall from closer to the bottom, she is now frightened of the well. “Chaithi doesn’t want anyone from the house to go near the well.”
Meanwhile, with the drought and severe water shortages, she says, there is no work to be done, and little or no food for the family to eat. “There are just two bags of jola left for us to eat.”
At the hospital in Gulbarga, Anita’s family is waiting patiently for information from the doctors on how serious her injuries are, but have only been told that she requires some tests. Her brother Sharanabasappa says that the Rs 1500 the family must spend for Anita’s tests are going to be a large burden, since the family only has a small kirana store in the village to its name.
Back in Kalamandargi, when asked whether people who managed to fill their pots shared with others who were left empty handed, Mahesh said: "When this water isn't enough for yourself, will you share with others? No."