By -Deborah Kallee, Madhura Joshi,Christopher Korb and Kalyani Rao
The problem of Open defecation in India is caused by multiple factors. With the objective to understand these factors intricately, we planned to conduct an ethnographic type of study in a village in the state of Maharashtra in India. The study was conducted for 3 consecutive days in the month of March,2018. We followed the broad features of Ethnographic type of study where in we camped in the village for 3 days and tried to follow the life of the villagers.
However, as we conducted the study, we realised the village had peculiarities which cannot be generalised with other villages. The Panshet village is an Infrastructure project affected village. The village is surrounded by 3 large water dams which provide water to the bustling metropolitan city of Pune. Yet the village had shortage of water supply. We learned as well as experienced lot of social, political and cultural faultiness of the Indian society.This case study highlights the complexities of an infrastructure project in a developing country like India.
Broad Conclusions of the Case Study:
The legal status of the village was contradictory. Even though the 1570 residents of the village were counted as villagers of the said village by the Indian government's census however the government's water and irritation deemed them to be illegal settlers of the village. Some of the government offices also informed us that the villagers were compensated (in lieu of the infrastructure project) by allotment of lands in other villages and the villagers were also given financial compensation. However the villagers residing in the Panshet village gave us contradicting information about their status as residents of the village. This complex fact of the village had impacted the lives of the villagers very peculiarly. Our study focused on observing the impact on the access to basic amenities. Here are the broad conclusions:
Brief Information about Panshet Village:
The Panshet village is a medium size village located in the state of Maharashtra with total of 348 families residing. The Panshet village has population of 1570 of which 838 are males while 732 are females as per data of Government of India's Population Census -2011.
The government considers the people living in the village as mostly Project Affected Persons (PACs). Farmers who grew rice mostly inhabited the village. The irrigation department of the state of Maharashtra acquired their land. The land was acquired between 1960 to1980. The rehabilitation and compensation of the people who were displaced because of construction of dams was followed according to 1894 Land Act (a pre Independence law) and later according to the Maharashtra Affected Person’s Rehabilitation Act (1976). The compensation and rehabilitation efforts of the government are not entirely accepted by the residents of the Panshet village. This fact has raised lot of complications for the village of Panshet. The village is also a high value real estate area because of its proximity to one of the richest and largest cities of India, Pune.
Due to the above mentioned complexities, access to basic facilities for the inhabitants of Panshet Village has become challenging. This research study presents the uniqueness of how a region affected by developmental projects can fall in the maze where all the stakeholders - the local government, the inhabitants, the state government struggle to reach an agreement.
Methodology/ approach to the case study:
We followed the broad principles of ethnographic type of research. We camped in Panshet village from 10th of March 2018 to 13th of March 2018.The team observed the village lifestyle very closely; for that they spend evenly distributed time in the village Market, village schools, health care facilities. We also learned the about the keep and use private toilets and community toilets. Early mornings (before sunrise), we investigated if villagers practiced open defecation. Public as well as private sources of water for the villagers were also checked. A detailed interview of Key people of the village was conducted. They were village government heads, village elders, doctors of various health care facilities, school principals of the 2 grade schools, public bus administration officials in Pune as villagers mostly commuted by bus and this mode of transport impacts lives of villagers in so many ways especially the girls who use to bus to commute to their school.
The female members of our team also conducted a very intimate and intensive group discussion with the village women. The group had women of various age groups, income and caste. Our team had spent the nights at a villager’s house, which helped us experience the living conditions. We also read numerous case studies and news reports, which concerned the village of Panshet.
Detailed Observation - Sanitation:
Most of the households in the village had toilets. Most of the toilets were constructed in last two years under various government-sponsored schemes. The construction of the community toilets was funded by private charitable organisations. The village government officials sourced the funds and oversaw the construction and management of the toilets.Many of the toilets lacked hand wash facility and were not clean.
In the village high school there were 461 students (source of information- the school principal). The school had 6 blocks of toilets exclusively for the girl students. Rotary club of Pimpri-Pune funded these toilets. The toilets were constructed in the year 2016. The toilets were not clean. One could see dried leaves and human excreta in the Indian style commodes in the toilets. There was no water facility to wash. There was no soap to wash hands. Some of the doors of the toilets had cracks. The high school principal didn’t let us to check the other toilets in the school building. But the team could smell the strong stench of urine from one of the toilets in the school hallway. Some of the students informed us that they don’t use their school’s toilets and go out in the open or go to the toilets in their houses.
We walked around the village and visited some households to check their toilets. Most of the households had clean toilets but not all of them had water and soap to wash hands. The toilets in the households had septic tanks. When we asked the residents what would they do once the septic tanks are filled, most of the residents didn’t have any specific strategy to get it cleaned or emptied. Also all the household toilets are maintained and cleaned by the women of the house.
Some villagers used the community toilets in the village sporadically. We noticed that the households closer to the community toilets used the community toilets. The toilets were didn’t have facility for regular water supply and soap to clean hands. The team was told that whenever someone uses the community toilets, they take water from their household. Villagers had to contribute150 Indian Rupees per household per month if they had to use community toilets. The maintenance and cleanliness of the toilets was assigned to someone from a lower caste community of the village.
We saw lot of villagers openly defecating in village the wee hours of the morning. This observation contradicted lot of statements made by the villagers about regular use of toilets.
Conclusion:The above observations confirmed the school of thought that most rural people in India hide their sanitation habits for social acceptance and fear of government agencies. The concept of clean sanitation and hygiene is still not on the list of priority among the villagers. The villagers also had to struggle to get toilets constructed for their village as the village is considered as an illegal settlement. We witnessed number of villagers defecating in the open
Detailed Observation - Water supply:
Panshet lies between the 2 water dams on Ambi river. The first dam was constructed in late 1950s and the second one was constructed from 1970 to 1980.The head of the government’s rehabilitation office informed us that the dams were constructed to manage water supply for the nearby city of Pune and also for agricultural needs. These infrastructure projects made 4500 families to relocate and abandon their ancestral lands.
A teacher from the middle school explained that in the past people did get water supply from the dams. As the residents lost the legal status as the villagers of Panshet according to the irrigation department of the government their water supply was also cut. Currently, water is sourced through a pipeline that is connected to a water storage tank. This water tank was made by the village administration called Gram Panchayat.
The schools in the village get water once a day from a pipeline that is connected to the dam and then stored in a tank. Despite having access to water pipeline, there was water shortage especially in the senior school. We observed that kids had to fetch water from a nearby faucet to use toilets in the school. Furthermore, we saw women fetching water from the school especially in the morning..
Several people informed us that they have to store water in multiple canisters, as they don’t have regular supply of water. A tailor whose family had lived for generations in the village told us that he used to fetch water from the river in the past and now he has water access for 30 minutes. He was of the opinion that the village officials restrict water so that the water is not wasted. Two other tailors said they are receiving water for 15 minutes. A restaurant owner also blamed the government for water shortage. He pointed out that up to 200 households of the village were not even accounted for providing basic amenities. A doctor said he felt being let down by the government and complained how the persistent problem of water shortage is not solved. He told us that there are two filtration plants in village of which only one is working. The lack of filtration is also identified as a cause that makes the villagers ill. A bakery shop owner told us that the lack of filtration is particularly problematic during monsoon season when the rainwater seeps into the water storage tank of the village.
In the group discussion the women told us that they were responsible source water for the household. They informed that plenty of times they had to wake up at wee hours in the morning to fetch water. They sourced water from the pipeline supplying water to their households and also from the river. Many of women from lower caste community in the village didn’t have water pipelines in their house so had to completely rely on contaminated river water.
According to the head of the village, there is currently a 60.000-liter-water-storage tank in use, which would be sufficient to supply water to 150 households in the village. However, there were 465 households in Panshet, which needed water supply. The people living in Panshet had to pay for electricity and water supply. The water supply was charged at 150 Indian rupees per month by the village administration /Gram Panchayat. Despite the very nominal charge for water supply, we came across many families who couldn’t pay 150 Indian rupees for water supply.
Our observations and interviews confirmed our impression that village had water shortage. One of the main factors was the complicated legal status of the village and its relationship with various departments of the government.. The village was set up as a dam colony by the irrigation department and has not achieved full village status until today. It is governed by a Gram Panchayat that has recently started to collect taxes but needs more money and the sanction of the irrigation department to build a new water tank. There is a limited source of water supply that is not sufficient to all the villagers and villagers mostly ended up using the contaminated water from the river.
Detailed Observation- Health Care:
In Panshet, there are five small private clinics and one governmental primary health unit, in which the villagers in and around Panshet can get treatment for minor illnesses. All the health care facilities in the village have very basic infrastructure. Three out of these five private health clinics, opened recently, around two to twelve months ago. The health care professionals of these recently opened clinics stated that they had moved to Panshet as there was regular influx of patients from near by villages and also from the close neighborhoods of Pune city. The private clinics benefitted because of the location of the village, which is a tourist spot. The rent is also low compare to the rent in a city.
The private clinics are were small. Most of them had a room with a stretcher and a desk where the doctors attend their patients. There were flies and mosquitoes in the clinics. The medical supplies and health care tools looked clean and sterile. The governmental primary health unit is the largest of all clinics in the village. The government health clinic had more patients compared to the private ones. We believe as the government clinic had nominal fee and sometimes offered cure for free of charge that’s why most of the villagers went to the government clinic. However, we also noticed that the government doctor was not regularly visiting the clinic.
On one of our visits to the government healthcare visits, we were told that two teams of healthcare workers were assigned to conduct a vaccination drive for children. They had visited remote villages as well as various nomadic tribes around Panshet to provide polio vaccinations to young children free of charge. To create awareness about their campaign, the staff had hung up posters in and around the village in the previous week.
On our second visit, we interviewed the doctor of the primary health unit. The doctor informed us that he along with his small staff were responsible to offer healthcare to 10000 people in 22 villages. He juggled his scheduled to be available to his numerous patients in different locations. In the course of our conversation, he told us that the health unit had no electricity for the last three to four years. One of the main reasons was the tussle between different government departments. The irrigation department, which had let the health department use their premises for health care clinic, didn’t want to recognize the healthcare facility anymore due to the legal complexity of the villagers.
We also gathered information about the most common diseases of the village. We learned that the most common illnesses present in and around the village are mainly water and mosquito-borne diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, Helminthiasis (worm infection), malaria and dengue.
The healthcare facilities of Panshet were minimal and lacked trauma care facilities. Due to the complicated status of village because of the infrastructure project, the government run health care clinic didn’t even have electricity supply. The common ailments like diarrhea and typhoid among the villagers proved the fact that there was lack of hygienic sanitation and water supply facilities.
Detailed Observation- Education:
Panshet has two schools. One was a kindergarten and the other was grade school. Both the schools were funded and run by government agencies. We met principal of the school and a teacher of the kindergarten. There were 77 children in that school. Some children were from near by villages. We were told that students from tribal community are the one who usually drop out from the school. All teachers of the school were from Pune city. They had to commute everyday by public transport. The Kindergarten school principal was a lady. The principal informed us that they recently could get 4 toilets constructed for the school. Rotary club sponsored these toilets. Two toilets were assigned for boys and the rest two for the girls. The school principal informed us that before the toilets were constructed, they were struggled to offer clean toilets to the students. Their old toilet was totally run down.
The toilets in the school are always locked and the key is kept in the office. The students had to go to the office to collect the key before they could use the toilet. The principle of the school said that collecting key from the office made the children accountable to keep the toilets clean and there was no ‘threat’ of outsiders using the school toilet. We found this reasoning illogical, as the students were very young to open the lock of the toilets every time they wanted to go. It was interesting to see that in a school timetable they have half an hour allotted to cleaning, where they clean their classrooms.
The school prepared meals for the students in their premises. We visited the school kitchen. Two women were preparing food for children. We noticed that the food was being prepared on wood fire and they didn’t have cooking gas facility. Some teachers informed us that the school would soon get cooking gas supply.
We also visited the grade school where medium school and high school students studied. We gathered most of the information about the school from the school principal. It is a semi-government school set up by an old trust. School was established in 1966 and it was moved to the new building in 2006. The old building of the school was still there and was in a poor condition. Next to the school, there was a government hostel for boys and two private hostels for girls. There were 255 boys and 206 girls pursuing education in the school. The school imparted free of charge education. Students were however had to pay examination fees of 100 to 150 Indian rupees (2.09$). The children from the nomadic shepherd community had high drop out rate as their families’ keeps on moving house. There was limited water supply in the school. The six new toilets constructed by rotary club in year 2016 were broken down and not used. These toilets were not inside the school building. The toilets for boys were inside the school building. The principal of the school didn’t let us check those toilets. He said the toilets are not functional. When asked which toilet boys are using at present in a very low voice, meekly he said that boys go in open to defecate.
On way back to school we met a boy studying in the high school. He said they have facility for drinking water but they had to go in open to urinate and for toilet they went home to use the toilet. They had a particular designated spot where all of them go to urinate in open. He was pretty apprehensive while sharing this information. He told us that we should ask the school principal to get the toilets cleaned.
One of the other factors that impacts education is lack of transportation facilities for the students especially the middle school and high school students. The village does not have a good public transport. The buses do not come on time hence one cannot rely on them. There were private vehicles which ferried between Pune to Panshet . We met few girls outside high school in the morning at 7.30. Even though their classes commenced at 11:00 a.m. they had to reach the school early, as the buses didn’t have a reliable schedule. Sometimes the students from other villages had to walk miles to reach home.
We visited state transport office in Pune and got to know that due to insufficient number of buses same bus runs on multiple routes and hence it was challenging for them to follow a fixed schedule.
From our observations and interviews we can confirm that students didn’t not have access to clean toilets. Parents had filed several complaints but that had lead to some temporary solutions. Basic amenities like water, sanitation and commute to school in the grade school were lackadaisical which can adversely effect a students’ education.