“Our struggle with water is not a recent one, we had to fight against the local bodies to get the water from the nearby Pazar lake,” said Suresh Khot, a 28 year old farmer from Laxmiwadi village which was declared the ideal model village of Maharashtra for successfully building toilets in all the households in 2011.
In the nearby suburbs of Kolhapur district and at a distance of 14.5 km from Ichalkaranji, the textile hub of Maharashtra, Laxmiwadi is that hamlet which doesn’t suffer from abject poverty and farmer suicide, but the lack of water made available for agriculture. A cemented road leads to Laxmiwadi where kuccha houses with a tainted pink shade tell the story of irony which cost the farmers their land. While drought forms primary concern in such cases, Laxmiwadi faces a tragedy of the known and unknown as it is surrounded by villages which undertake Sugarcane as the major crop.
Khot dejectedly said, “Whatever meager produce of groundnut and jowar we will be getting from the fields now will eventually be fed to animals because the produce will be way too less than the actual quantity which could be sold.”
However, the irony is that Birdevwadi, a village located at a distance of 1.2 km from Laxmiwadi has proper water facilities and the major crop undertook here is Sugarcane which requires a lot of water. To earn their living, a majority of the farmers of Laxmiwadi who own farming land, have to work in other’s fields where there is an abundance of water supply, few go for sugarcane cutting while others end up working in spinning mills or as part-time workers in various engineering industries.
While farmers of Laxmiwadi completely depend on rain to grow the Shalu species of jowar, the farmers of Birdevwadi manage to grow sugarcane throughout the year. “After continuous demands for getting at least the drinking water, a 40,000-liter tank was installed on the nearby mountain and now we receive drinking water from that,” informed Khot.
Adjoining the farming lands, one can see a lot of stones spread across and villagers described it as a part of water management programme undertaken by the Government many years ago. Talking about this project, Dadasaheb Khot, a farmer said, “This project ran across a period of almost 4 years and the only thing the contractors managed to do was pile up a few stones so that water could be conserved. However no soil was spread across, neither were any measures taken so that the water could percolate into the ground.”
Due to a failure of this policy and lack of facilities to provide water for farming, the Rabi crops have eventually died in Laxmiwadi, whereas as one steps down towards the Vadgaon-Hatkanangle road which is at a distance less than 3 km, the condition is quite surprising. A lot of sugarcane fields can be seen adjoining the roads along with several Rabi crops.
In order to make Laxmiwadi a hygienic village with toilet facilities in every household, it was made mandatory for all the residents to get a toilet built. Villagers said that they were made to borrow a loan of Rs 25,000, failing which the water supply would have been stopped. After successfully implementing the strategy, all the households now have a toilet and there is no need for public toilet exclaimed one of the villagers. In order to celebrate this feat of cent percent sanitation, the villagers painted all the kuchha houses light pink and swept the streets as well.
However, Laxmiwadi faces a lot of problems on the educational, finance and other fronts. Bhimrao Khot, a 52-year-old farmer said, “Forget demonetization, here we don’t have money to buy everyday essentials as the farming has failed and even if we have any money, it’s in the denomination of Rs 2000 for which nobody offers change.”
“We work as laborers and get somewhere between Rs 150 and Rs 200 daily, which makes it to almost Rs 1500 a week. These days, we have been getting Rs 2000 note and there is no way we can spend a huge chunk of it just to get change,” added Bhimrao Khot.
Vidya Mandir is the only school in Laxmiwadi which provides education till grade 5 and has 4 teachers. Upon being asked about the plans to expand, a senior school teacher said that “Already we are short of teachers, if we increase one more grade then it will become difficult to teach the students. It will almost take a year for the new teacher to arrive and this will disrupt the existing education.”
With no bank, post office, medical and any other shop, Laxmwadi is just a place to come and rest, ascertain the villagers with a sarcastic smile. Villagers in unison said that 12 solar street lights were installed almost 2 years back, however, after 2 years only 2 of them work. While a handful of students (precisely 5) are college goers, the dropout rates are incredibly high as there is no high school and college in the vicinity.
With all the kuccha houses and few of them even falling because of geographical factors, Suresh Khot, a farmer who had to quit his education after passing 9th grade said, “Rather than travelling 15 km daily to reach the nearest college, I preferred working in the fields because of the lack of facilities available.”
While Laxmiwadi managed to secure its position as one of the villages with complete toilet facilities, the basic concern for all the farmers is the deterioration of land caused due to a mismatch between properties of the soil and corresponding crops undertaken.