Bonda tribe's endless quest for drinking water in Odisha

As per the Rural Health Statistics - 2018, the rural health care infrastructure in Odisha is not sufficient to meet the current population norm.

Published: 24th July 2019 07:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th July 2019 01:09 PM   |  A+A-

Women of Bandhaguda village under Mudulipada panchayat fetching water from a stream

Women of Bandhaguda village under Mudulipada panchayat fetching water from a stream | ( Photo | EPS )

Express News Service

For the Bonda tribals, one of the most primitive tribes of the country residing in Mudulipada and Andrahal panchayats under Khairput block, safe water continues to be a far cry even during the rainy season. 

There are at least 10,000 tribals residing in 32 villages under these two panchayats. With tubewells in almost all the villages oozing contaminated water, the only option for the Bonda women is to collect water from streams and look for ‘chuan’ to draw water. None of the tubewells have been maintained over the years by authorities concerned. 

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Haguda under Mudulipada, said it is an everyday struggle for Bonda women to fetch water. Although there was a solar piped water project in her village, it is lying defunct.

In fact, many of the villages in Bonda Hills are not covered under piped water supply system. In the past, two piped water projects were undertaken by the Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihood Project and Rural Water and Sanitation Scheme (RWSS) to solve the drinking water crisis but were left incomplete. 

The RWSS wing admits that drinking water supply to the area has been a challenge. Only three of 19 villages under Mudulipada panchayat and five of 13 villages under Andrahal panchayat have been covered under piped water supply system, informed Khairput-based RWSS junior engineer, Bhisma Mallick. 

Similarly, of the 55 tubewells under Mudulipada panchayat three are defunct. While all the 21 tubewells in Andrahal panchayat are in working condition, these pump out water which is unfit for human consumption.

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Borewells have not been disinfected from June as bleaching powder stock has been exhausted. Mallick informed that his counterpart in Malkangiri has written to a Cuttack-based company to provide more bleaching power soon.

Khairput Block Development Officer (BDO), Biswajit Burman said workers of RWSS face difficulty in digging tubewells in the hilly terrain of Bonda Hills. He said more number of tubewells would come up in the area once the ongoing road construction from Mudulipada to Andrahal is completed.

“The road will help in smooth movement of boring machines to work sites”, he said. 

The BDO blamed the negligence of RWSS officials behind the defunct solar water project in Bandhaguda. He, however, said there is no water scarcity in Bandhaguda village as it has the required number of tubewells. 

In 1976 the first micro project of Odisha, Bonda Development Agency was established at Mudulipada. But there is no sight of any basic amenities including water supply in the habitations located in the high hills four decades down the line.

 The state government’s tall claims over appointing more and more doctors to galvanise health care at the grassroots notwithstanding, Odisha continues to languish with a shortfall of whopping 5771 doctors at the primary health centres (PHCs).

The state requires 6688 doctors in PHCs but has only 1,326 sanctioned posts of whom as high as 409 are lying vacant. There are 1094 doctors in position against the sanctioned strength of 1427 in district hospitals and 347 doctors against 567 posts in sub divisional hospitals in the State.

Similarly, 1276 posts in community health centres (CHCs) are vacant against the sanctioned strength of 1529.

However, to tide over the crisis the State has 94 general duty medical officers (GDMOs) and 2188 AYUSH doctors on contract under National Health Mission (NHM) scheme. The State has 6688 sub-centres, 1288 PHCs, 377 CHCs, 33 sub-divisional hospitals and 32 district headquarters hospitals.

Replying to a question during the Budget Session in the Lok Sabha, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey said public health and hospitals being a state subject, the primary responsibility to ensure availability of doctors including rural areas, lies with the state governments.

“The Centre has been providing financial and technical support under NHM to strengthen health care systems, including support for recruitment of doctors on contractual basis, based on the requirements proposed in Programme Implementation Plans (PIPs) within the overall resource envelope,” he stated in a written reply.

Under NHM, the Minister informed that states are encouraged to adopt flexible norms for engaging specialist doctors for public health facilities.

The norms include various mechanisms for ‘contracting in’ and ‘contracting out’ of specialist services, methods of engaging specialists outside the Government system for service delivery at public facilities, offering negotiable salaries to attract specialists.

Despite Central assistance Odisha continued to lag behind. As per the Rural Health Statistics - 2018, the rural health care infrastructure in the state is not sufficient to meet the current population norm. With a population of 4,19,74,218 (as per 2011 Census),

Odisha has one sub-centre for 5,229 people, one PHC for 27,151 persons and one CHC covers a population of 92,760.

The Minister stated that the Centre has been providing performance-based incentives, allowance for hard to reach areas, accommodation and transport facilities in rural and remote areas besides sponsoring training programme for engaged humans resources to address the shortage of doctors in public health facilities.


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