The Times of India: Rajkot: Wednesday, March 28, 2012.
RAJKOT: Nine-year-old Nanji Satuna and his three brothers Mukesh, Dinesh and Vijay quit studies a fortnight ago. They daily brave scorching winds and a cruel terrain of Little Rann of Kutch just to fetch drinking water from a pond for their family. These children cycle six kilometre throughout the day to bring water.
Summer is just peaking and saltpan workers in Kharaghoda are already reeling under severe drinking water scarcity. Most of them have to travel 15-20 km away daily to get potable water.
"If my children go to schools, who will fetch water for us? My husband and I have to work in saltpans the whole day," mother of the four brothers Kaliben Satuna said.
Their father Dharshi Satuna says his childrens' job is to fetch water throughout the day to quench the thirst of his six-member family living 15 km inside the Little Rann.
According to a social worker Ambu Patel, there are around 350 children of saltpan workers enrolled in three primary schools in Kharaghoda. All these children have migrated to Little Rann to help their parents in saltpans.
There are nearly 12,000 saltpans workers in Kharaghoda and between them, they get just three tankers of water per day from the government. Left with no option, these workers are forced to buy water from some private operators, who charge an exorbitant cost, even more than what people in the cities pay to civic bodies. Private operators are charging Rs 2,000 per tractor of 2,000 litre capacity.
"We can't afford to pay Re 1 per litre, but we have no option as government is not providing us water. It's a question of our survival," a saltpan worker Bhudar Jakhavadia said.
A resident of Kharaghoda Dilu Pordiya said that he has to travel at least five km on bicycle to fetch water from nearby area. "It is very difficult to paddle the cycle due to dry and heavy winds blowing from opposite direction."
"Our saltpan is located in the interior of the Rann. So, we have to go to Navagam, Dehgam or Odu villages in search of water and all these villages are 15 -20 km away from our site,'' a saltpan worker Prahlad Dhamecha said.
Interestingly, government officials cite "bad" condition of tyres of their tankers for not being able to provide water in these areas.
"The tankers are not capable of providing water to saltpan workers as the tyres are not good and get punctured in the Little Rann. We have demanded new tyres from higher authority and are awaiting the approval,'' deputy executive engineer, Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB), Patdi division, B C Shah.
Officials admitted that due to bad conditions of tyres, they did not provide water for at least 15 days in the area.