Water woes compound problems of marriageable boys

Water woes compound problems of marriageable boys

Water scarcity in the scorching summer is a common sight in villages, especially in North.

Gujarat, in a year preceded by deficit monsoon. The scene may not be any different in most parts of arid zones in India. In Dedhan village in Amreli district, one can see vast stretches of dry land and it has motorable roads and good connectivity, like most places in Gujarat. In Saurashtra, one of the Gujarat's driest regions, the rainfall was scanty last year and Dedhan is one of the worst-hit and waiting for water has become a drudgery for residents. Dedhan is just an example as nearly 4,000 villages in Saurashtra and Kutch are in the grip of a severe drought due to deficit monsoon  last year.  Also, Dedhan gets water on alternate days and the quantity is not even sufficient to meet their drinking needs.

For youth in Dedhan, this is virtually turning out to be a curse. Parents are not willing to give their daughters even if the boy is most eligible one—the only reason is that there is an acute shortage of water shortage in the village. Adding insult to injury is that it is a drought of marriages this year. Not even one among around 500 youth could tie the nuptial knot in this remote village with a  population of about 15,000. If the situation is as bad as this year, their wait may grow little longer.

Or, they need to hope for a miracle to happen and Dedhan finds a permanent source of water so that parents would be happy to give their daughters to boys. Now, they are pinning their hopes on monsoon this year. To their joy, the met department has predicted a normal monsoon for Gujarat. “If there is good rain, we can hope for marriages between

October and December,” a villager said.

Bhimji Bariya, a prospective groom, said: “Surrounding villages are also dry. But Dedhan's remoteness makes it particularly vulnerable. With no assured source of water, the agriculture is dryland cultivation and the major crops are cotton and ground nut. Naturally, the parents think that their daughters will suffer if they are sent as brides to this village.”

Bariya pointed out that most of the people hold lands here and have built houses. The scarcity of water has scared the prospective brides' parents and, to make matters worse, the word of mouth about the acute shortage in Dedhan is spreading to other parts of the state.

The villagers fear that if monsoon fails again and water scarcity continues, the number of unmarried boys in the village will grow further.

Another resident and prospective groom Narsinh Parmar has prayers on his lips. He hopes that the rain gods will not disappoint him. Parmar said: “We fulfill all the requirements a father would look before giving his daughter in a marriage.

Negotiations begin and the brides' parents are also satisfied when we tell them that we are farm owners and have other required qualifications. The ties hit a dead-end, the moment the village name is mentioned and they virtually scoot away from the scene.”

He said that his parents are depressed. Parmar is already worried because a failed monsoon would mean that his younger brother would also join the growing list of people looking for girls.  

While water problem continues to remain a worry for farmers, Parmar’s mother, Virjiben Parmar said: “We are praying for rain not for farming or for daily chores. But, we want the raingod to shower blessings on us and remove the curse of being treated like outcaste by others.’’

Fathers of prospective grooms are also a worried lot. They are hoping that the monsoon brings in good luck for them. They are praying for good rainfall for it to take care of their crop. They hope that it will also solve their concern of getting brides for their boys. Rains would make people happy as there will be many marriage parties.

 “By the end of this year, besides Narsinh, another son will be ready for marriage.
So, a good monsoon this year will ensure not only a good news for my farm but also for both my sons who might end up getting their brides,’’ said Bheeljibhai Parmar.
Village sarpanch Badshah Khan said  he has tried hard to find them partners. The sarpanch has gone extra mile to assure families of neighbouring villages that their daughters will get priority in water supply.

Khan said: “The main problem is water shortage. The people who come here with proposals ask us the question, there is no water, why should we marry our girls here,” Khan said. He feared the number would touch 550 if there was no improvement in the situation. Last year, there were 35 marriages in and around the village.

Khan said that other villages also face water shortage but Dedhan is a bit interior place. Sometimes, the authorities find it difficult to arrange tankers for water supply.
The village used to manage its water requirement through a municipal tap and it has gone dry this year. It is away from the Narmada canal as well which adds to the problems. The request for water tanker is sent by the nagarpalika which is the only source of the official process here for the villagers.

So the message from this distraught village is loud and clear, save water not because it is precious and ensures survival but it could also lead to a happy married life.

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