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UP: Maya gives Dalits water, Brahmins parched


Nilanjana Bose,CNN-IBN
Jun 23, 2008 at 03:54pm IST

Bundelkhand: To be lavishly washing dishes used to be a luxury in a Dalit house in Bundelkhand a few months ago. But now with water available in abundance, the 400 Dalit houses in Sakrar village of Bundelkahnd don't have to worry about where the next drop will be coming from.

Earlier, these Dalits had to travel 10 kilometres to a well in another village to fill buckets of water. But now, things have changed. Every morning, six water tankers come to the village supplying each house with 200 litres of water.

A resident of Sakrar, Kamlesh Ahirwal says, "Ever since Behenji (Mayawati) has come to power, we have no worries about water."

In a land that has witnessed drought-like conditions for the last several years, water comes at a premium, but Dalit villages like Sakrar don't have to worry anymore - at least not while Mayawati's there.

Immediately after the Dalit Chief Minister came to power, Bundelkhand - and specially the lower castes in the area - became a priority issue for her.

Tankers were sent to the furthest corners of Bundelkhand to quench parched houses that had voted her to power.

Votebank politics and the battle for water go hand in hand in Bundelkhand. While Dalits have been rewarded for their loyalty, the upper castes are witnessing what they call is a complete upheaval of an age old social order.

For brahmins like Rakesh Kumar Purohit, it is a day and age in which their ego has been totally bruised. His village, Magarpur is just a few kilometres from Sakrar, but is today thirsting for water.

Each morning, the men in his family cycle down to a well outside their village to fill cans of water because Magarpur doesn't have the same privileges as the Dalit villages. A few tankers stroll in occasionally, but are never enough for the thousand-odd houses in the village.

So now, the rich brahmins of this village have devised ingenious ways to get water - through portable tanks and by storing rain water.

Purohit says, "We will fend for ourselves, but we will never stoop low enough to bow down in front of other people and request for tankers to come here."

In Bundelkhand, the lines between the Dalits and the upper castes are well drawn and distinct. For years, the caste system dictated how the rich and poor should live. But now, water has blurred those lines. In many ways, it's almost as if roles have been reversed.

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