Editor's Note: This summer has taken a toll on large parts of north, north-west and north-central India. As the country witnesses extremely high temperatures ever, here is a look at the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh which has been hit by another drought, and several villages don't even have basic drinking water. This is the fourth in a seven-part series, which explores the situation in Banda, Panna, Damoh, Mahoba and Chitrakoot.
Chitrakoot: Youths and men of Gopipur, on the border of Uttar Pradesh in Chitrakoot district, have given up any hope of getting married. One of the worst affected villages in parched Bundelkhand, the water crisis here is so severe that no one wants their daughter married to someone from Gopipur.
A sizeable number of men have already relocated to different cities in search of a better life.
The population of Gopipur village is about 2,000, as per information gleaned from the district administration, which includes around 700 women and 300-odd unmarried men.
No monsoon or wedding here
Arjun Kumar, 38, a daily-wager and wood-monger residing in the village, said he has gone through seven failed attempts so far to find a bride for himself. “I have lost all hope of getting married now. In the last 10 years, seven families have come for talks. All of them found me suitable, but the prospect of having their daughter live in a village where there is no water was not acceptable to them. I am growing old by the day and have already crossed the marriageable age. I can only blame God for this situation our village is in, no one else,” he added.
Forty-three-year-old Pappu Arhan is in a similar situation and has already quashed his marriage dreams. “One of my uncles, too, could not find a bride for himself and died a bachelor. It looks like the same fate awaits me; there won’t be a son lighting my funeral pyre, and my brothers will inherit the property, as I won’t have wife and children,” he said, resigned.
Arhan added that he had approached the district magistrate a few years ago, apprising him about the situation in the village and the consequences of water scarcity the villagers were having to deal with.
Nanki Devi, who has two children of marriageable age, said, “Girls don’t want to get married to the youths here because they don’t want to suffer the water crisis or walk for miles to fetch water for the family. Many of our boys have moved to different places. It is my duty to cook for the family, so I along with the other women here walk to the well to fetch water; but, tell me, why would a new girl want to take on so much pain and hardship for water? It’s understandable (that they don’t want to marry).”
Left high and dry by government
Gopipur village has seven hand pumps, installed by the government long ago, but not a single one of them works owing to the decline in the groundwater level.
The main source of earning a livelihood in this village is selling firewood in the sub-urban areas and villages, while a smaller chunk of the population is involved in extracting musk from deer.
The only source of water in the village is a well, which is located a few kilometres from the village. When this correspondent found the well, it was not a pretty sight — the water was so dirty that it was black in colour and even had a foul smell emanating from it.
Residents claim that the district administration, which is responsible for sending water tankers and ensuring proper supply in the village, has turned a blind eye and is least bothered about their plight.
“The main reason tankers do not come to our village is the rough terrain. It is a slightly hilly area, and roads are not suitable for heavy vehicles to drive on; it is the government’s job to take into consideration all such factors and come up with a plan, but officials aren’t paying any attention to this problem. Who knows? If there were good roads, perhaps, we all would have been able to get married without any hurdle...” Arhan trailed off.
The chief development officer of Chitrakoot, Mahendra Kumar, however, said the district administration is regularly sending water tankers to drought-hit areas.
“We are sending eight to 10 tankers to every area daily; we are doing our best. I am new here, so I don’t know about this marriage problem in the village, but I will take up this issue and see what the administration can do about it,” he added.
Pushpendra Bhai, a water conversation activist based in the adjoining Banda district, said, “The problem of youths unable to find brides is not confined to Gopipur but spread across Bundelkhand. If this situation doesn’t improve, then soon, Bundelkhand will be known as the land of unmarried men. The drought is getting worse day by day, and its social and other impacts are bound to increase further.”
According to the 2011 census, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of single women — around 12 million — followed by Maharashtra (6.2 million) and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh (4.7 million); the number of unmarried men across India is 1,33,50,546.
(Author is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.)
Updated Date: Jun 15, 2019 17:17:02 IST