Kulwinder Kaur Brar, Village Sarpanch from Memha Bhagwana village of Bathinda district of Punjab leads the movement of ‘Water for all’ and transformed her village with the help of Jal Jeevan Mission through community participation. It was stated in a press release shared by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
The release further states that Kulwinder during her childhood had witnessed the suffering of the village’s women due to the scarcity of water. She was keen on reducing their plight and therefore after becoming the Sarpanch, she started working towards the cause. However, she needed huge funds to implement her idea and with the launch of Jal Jeevan Mission, the piped water scheme became streamlined and it helped in achieving Kulwinder’s mission.
Under Jal Jeevan Mission, the piped water scheme for providing water in every rural household was sanctioned for Mehma village. In order to facilitate the mission, members of the Village Water & Sanitation Committee (VWSC) went house to house explaining the advantage of piped water supply. They encouraged families to contribute and get a tap connection so that they can save their time and energy and also have access to clean drinking water. Water being a serious concern among villagers, most of them agreed to pay the money for the installation of the water connection. However, a few households in the villages expressed their inability to afford the contribution. Gram Panchayat decided to waive off their charges and the expenditure towards their household tap connections was taken up by the Panchayat.
The next milestone was to regularly take up water issue in Panchayat meetings. Patriarchy was the main hurdle in implementing this idea. Although Kulwinder leads the Gram Panchayat as a Sarpanch there were very few women who attended the Gram Sabha. It was a tough task to mobilize women. Today, nearly 80% of women attend the Gram Sabha and share their concerns. Seeing a woman at the helm of affairs instils confidence in women who are more participative and are willing to take leadership roles.
Jal Jeevan Mission’s IEC Campaign was a great help in steering the community. To carry out regular awareness, an all-women Village Water & Sanitation Committee was formed in the village since the women in the village believe that it’s the women who run the house, hence, they can manage water better.
A five-member committee has been formed in the Panchayat which periodically tests the water source and household tap connection to assess the purity and standard of water supplied in the village. While skilled masons, electricians and plumbers are available in the village for various works related to drinking water supply, now women are also being trained to carry out minor repair works and maintain the existing infrastructure.
Mehma Bhagwana village is a perfect example of community participation and mobilization to own the JJM scheme where the village has 100 per cent functional household water connection and has been running it successfully for a population of 1,484 people, which can be emulated by other villages.
But for Kulwinder Kaur, the journey has just begun, as she now plans to work towards grey water management & installation of solar lights in the village. Under her leadership, she has other plans to see women from her village be economically independent. She is in the process of mobilising them under the umbrella of SHGs. She says, ‘’I will ensure that these women from the village should take up some gainful economic activity to be financially independent and contribute to the family kitty.’’