The Indian children who need to take a train to get to water - GulfToday

Children in Indian village skip playtime after school, travel 9 miles every day on trains to fetch water

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With empty water containers, Siddharth Dhage, 10, waits to board a train at Mukundwadi in Maharashtra.

As their classmates set off to play after school each day, nine-year-old Sakshi Garud and her neighbour Siddharth Dhage, 10, are among a small group of children who take a 14 km (9 miles) return train journey from their village in India to fetch water.

Their families are some of the poorest in the hamlet of Mukundwadi, in the western state of Maharashtra, a village that has suffered back-to-back drought.

India's monsoons have brought abundant rain and even floods in many parts of the country, but rainfall in the region around Mukundwadi has been 14% below average this year and aquifers and borewells are dry.

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Prakash Nagre washes himself at Aurangabad railway station, India.

"I don't like to spend time bringing water, but I don't have a choice," Dhage said.

"This is my daily routine," said Garud. Their cramped shanty homes are just 200 metres (220 yards) from the train station. "After coming from school, I don't get time to play. I need to get water first."

They are not alone. Millions of Indians do not have secure water supplies, according to the UK-based charity, WaterAid. It says 12% of Indians, or about 163 million people, do not have access to clean water near their homes - the biggest proportion of any country.

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Gaurav Ganesh, 13, helps fill the containers with water at Aurangabad railway station, India.

Recognising the issue, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to spend more than 3.5 trillion rupees ($49 billion) to bring piped water to every Indian household by 2024.

PIPE DREAM

The children take the train daily to fetch water from the nearby city of Aurangabad.

The train is often overcrowded, so a group of small children jostling to get on board with pitchers to fill with water is not always welcome.

"Some people help me, sometimes they complain to railway officials for putting pitchers near the door. If we don't put them near the door, we cannot take them out quickly when the train stops," Dhage said.

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Dhage is among a small group of children who take a 14-km (9 miles) return train journey from their village to fetch water.

Garud's grandmother Sitabai Kamble and an elderly neighbour help occasionally by pushing them on board in the face of irritable passengers. 

"Sometimes they kick the pitchers away, they grumble," Kamble said.

When the train pulls into Aurangabad 30 minutes later, they scramble to fill the pitchers at nearby water pipes. Garud can't reach the tap, so she relies on her taller sister, Aaysha, 14, and grandmother.

Others, like Anjali Gaikwad, 14, and her sisters, also board the train every few days to collect water and wash clothes.

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Gaikwad and her sisters board the train every few days to collect water and wash clothes.

Their neighbour, Prakash Nagre, often tags along with soap and shampoo. "There's no water to bathe at home," he says.

When the train returns them to Mukundwadi, they have just under a minute to disembark. At times, Dhage's mother, Jyoti, is waiting at the station to help.

"I'm careful, but sometimes pitchers fall off the door in the melee and our work is wasted," she said, holding her infant in one arm and a pitcher in the other. "I can't leave my daughter at home alone so I have to take her along."

Reuters