Villagers in Kerala to boycott polls over unavailability of potable water
People in Kerala have decided to take up the issue of contaminated and insufficient water supply as a major poll issue since the state government has failed to fulfill its promise to provide safe drinking water.
Hundreds of villagers who live near the low lying water logged regions of Kuttanad region in Alappuzha city in Kerala, which is famous for its back water tourism, are facing an acute shortage of drinking water for several years.
"Water is essential and, we will not get water if you (political parties) just come and make promises and go during the elections. You come, make promises and go, after that you are not seen on this route at all. So, that is why we do not have anything more to say, our decision is to boycott voting," said a daily wage worker, Baby.
Less rainfall during returning monsoon, scorching summer and poor water supply with dilapidated condition of overhead tanks are the major reasons for the unavailability of potable water in upper and remote Kuttanad villages, which the voters of Kuttanad have taken as a major poll issue this time.
People of Kuttanad allege that though promises were made about the provision of clean drinking water prior to previous elections, political parties failed to fulfill their promises.
Villagers added that even back waters in Kuttanad are highly contaminated that it can't be even used for day to day purposes.
"It is not possible even to take bath using this water. After taking a bath using this water, we suffer from itching and other problems. And if we don't take bath then it will be even worse. So we are adjusting to our lives which are becoming heart rendering day by day. Kuttanad was once the grain barn of Kerala, Kuttanad used to support Kerala when it came to rice and food. However, that place has been totally contaminated," said a worker of Kerala's tourism industry, Sumesh.
Many of them have already decided not to caste their votes and participate in any activity or campaign by political leaders representing from here. Poster and banners in support of the issue are now visible in some of the boat jetties along these areas.
Now, they have to depend on country boats carrying potable water for few times in a week which is used for drinking and basic purpose, for rest they depend on surrounded backwaters. More than six wards of the village council have no water pipeline connection and the drinking water is brought here in boats from distant places.
Kerala Water Authority, which supplies water through the pipe line, has limited its supply to few days in a week, but the bad condition of the line makes it contaminated with saline or mud.
People from these villages refuse to rely on any political parties now as both the left and the right have ruled, but there plight for basic drinking water remains the same.
However, some people also hold the view that boycotting elections is not a solution to the crisis.
"This parliamentary constituency was represented by Kodikunnil Suresh, who was also a junior minister in the cabinet. He has not spent even a penny. Other than declarations of mega projects, nothing substantial has been done here. I think that for continuous availability of potable water, all political parties should make an effort. My view is that nothing can be achieved from boycotting voting. We have to approach some or the other agency, it is not possible by boycotting voting," said a former member of Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) in the village council.
(Posted on 29-03-2014)