BELAGAVI: Charity begins at home. For this family, charity begins at its open well. Whenever a resident of Camp area or surroundings in Belagavi seeks water - no matter day or night - this family sends a tanker to his or her doorstep. The supply will be in sufficient quantities and free of cost.
The Shaikh family has been running this charity for the last five decades and the residents of Ward 3 of Cantonment have no worries about the scarce commodity, whether it is summer or drought. It all began about 50 years ago.
The Shaikhs dug up an open well and it yielded abundant water. The neighbourhood had problems in getting water and the family offered from its new well. This set the Shaikhs’ tradition of free water supply.
Now, the Shaikhs have two tankers. Anybody in Ward 3 of Cantonment can call the drivers and a tanker will pull up at the caller’s doorstep promptly, sometimes with a few minutes if a tanker is ready. Not only the caller gets enough water, but the remainder in the tanker is given his to the neighbours.
The well has never gone dry.
It does not mean Cantonment Board, the local civic body, does not supply water. In fact the Cantonment Board supplies piped water once in 3-4 days as done by the larger Belagavi City Corporation which governs the rest of the city. But the supply slackens in the upper reaches because of inadequate pressure. There are also a number of other wells in the locality, but lifting water poses problems. These make the residents turn to the Shaikhs.
As Shaikh family became popular, it came under public pressure to enter politics and it obliged in 1972. Dawal Jangu Shaikh was the first member of the family to enter the Cantonment Board. He was elected for a record seven consecutive terms.
Dr Raheela, another member of the family succeeded Dawal as Board member in 2000. Her husband Sajeed Shaikh is the current member of the Board from Ward 3.
Politics restricts supply
In a way politics restricted the water supply by the family. In fact, the family says its well can cater to the entire one lakh population of Cantonment. But if the family supplies water to any area beyond the Ward 3, the local people’s representatives object to it, obviously for political reasons. So the Shaikhs have confined the free water supply to the Ward 3 which has a population of 2,500.
However, Sajeed says water is supplied to other wards only during emergency that too with the “consent” of local corporators.
Sajeed says the family has purchased two tankers to ensure round-the-clock water supply. Despite being a corporator, Sajeed drives the tankers when the drivers are away. “Callers get water within an hour and this tradition has been followed ever since the service was started,” he says.
Basically, the Shaikhs are a business family. It runs Chandan Inox multiplex near BSNL office in the city. It has also been engaged in forest contract business for about five decades and has other businesses employing more than 1,000 people.
The Shaikhs are also rendering free medical service to the poor. Dr Raheela, who enjoys a good reputation in the medical field, provides free medicines to poor patients.