Not a child's play!

For the first time in her life, Jayanthi is glad that Prasad, the youngest of her four children, did not heed to her advice. Jayanthi vividly recollects that despite her nagging, Prasad and his friend Deekshit continued digging under the scorching sun on a Sunday in 2015.

“Had they followed my advice and abandoned the work, Guddalpalke colony would have continued to face acute shortage of potable water,” she says as other elderly people who live near the well that was hand-dug by the village children nod in agreement.

The people of Guddalpalke colony on the fringes of the Moorumale forest in Dharegudde gram panchayat, located nearly 19 km from Moodbidri, were struggling to access potable water for years. Former vice president of Dharegudde gram panchayat, Sharada, remembers walking nearly a kilometre to bring potable water from a well. Years ago, the residents made an appeal to the gram panchayat to have a well dug. 

For a cause

Digging a well with shramadaan was still an expensive plan for the economically disadvantaged families residing on five cents land and eking a hand-to-mouth existence. Subhaschandra Chowta, a member of the gram panchayat,  says that the panchayat which is dependent on the agrarian economy has limited resources to take up such works.

However, digging a well was not a planned activity. Prasad and Deekshit had dug a small hole, close to their houses, for keeping tadpoles caught from a rivulet, informs Yuvaraj Hegde, a resident. Both of them dug a two-feet deep pit on a Sunday in November 2015. Though they did it for fun initially, as they progressed they realised that digging a proper well could solve the water crisis in the village. The work gathered momentum and eight more children joined hands.

While Prasad and Deekshit, who led from the front, were in ninth standard then, other members — Nagesh, Deeksha, Bhavya, Suhas, Sulochana, Prajna, Prajnesh and Deekshith — were studying in primary school. Prasad and Deekshit are now working as daily wage labourers after completing tenth standard.

“On the second day, groundwater started seeping after digging 18 feet ,” informs a visibly excited Prasad. His father Annu, a construction labourer, says three trained men generally take four days to construct a hand-dug well. What impressed the gram panchayat was that without any capital investment or help from groundwater surveyor, 10 children with blisters in hands (from using the pickaxe and shovel) had succeeded in digging a well that yielded water.  

“Construction of hand-dug wells is a tough task and, sometimes, can become dangerous, too. It requires skill and there are people who are specialised in it,” Chowta points out. At the same time, the villagers acknowledge that it was by sheer luck that they found water in the well and otherwise the hard work of these children would have gone futile. 

Once the well was dug, the panchayat stepped in by spending Rs 99,000 on concrete well rings and on a pump to draw out water. Bhuvana Jyothi Residential School in Shirthady donated money to help panchayat build a protective wall around the well. As word about their heroic deed spread, the 10 children were felicitated by the panchayat and other local organisations. “The well has solved the drinking water problems of around 10 houses. We consider this as a gift from the children,” says Yuvaraj.

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Not a child's play!

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