SIKAR/JHUNJHUNU: The picturesque Roop Nivas Palace, now a heritage hotel, in Nawalgarh, Shekhawati in Jhunjhunu district, presents a stark contrast to the parched hamlets nearby. Early in the morning one may see a peacock dancing and in the stable, housing over a hundred Marwari stallions, caretaker Jaswant Singh lovingly massaging the two-year-old white stallion, Nukra, who has been sold to Bangalore royals. The palace resembles an official residence of a raja of Rajasthan of the 15th century.
Prosperity, however, is confined to the four walls of this palace, whose stallions are also more privileged than the humans living in the nearby hamlets (dhanis).
Except for Nawalgarh, most of the places in the twin districts of Jhunjhunu and Sikar are witnessing an acute water crisis, as potable water remains a luxury here.
Groundwater in most of the villages contains high fluoride content and TDS (total dissolved solids). Water salinity is so high that you can’t take a drop of it. But for the poor villagers are destined to live on the same.
Contaminated water has inflicted untold miseries as hundreds of villagers have developed several deformities. Dental fluorosis is a common disease in the region.
“Hundreds of children with dental deformities can be seen anywhere in Shekhawati mainly Jhunjhunu and Sikar,” says, a PHED engineer.
People at the Chhoti Kardoli village in Laxmangarh tehsil in Sikar Lok Sabha constituency are among the most affected as a few of them have their bones so weak that they can’t even walk properly. “We have knocked all possible doors but none has come to our rescue,” says Hanuman Singh Bhukhar, a resident of the nearby Jhanjhar village, who keeps making noises against this perennial crisis of the region.
The water-starved toils of the villagers has, however, not become a poll issue in Jhunjhunu as well as Sikar Lok Sabha constituencies thanks to the “insensitive” candidates’, whose thrust is more on exposing their rivals’ misdeeds. “We keep apprising the visiting candidates but none has come forward with a solution to our miseries,” says Radheshyam, another Jhanjhar villager.
“Olaji (Sisram Ola) has been minister several times and he was part of the government but never bothered to take up the issue with the Centre,” says, Shyamlal Gehlot, shopkeeper at Fatehpur in Jhunjhunu Lok Sabha constituency. People had similar grievances against BJP candidate from Sikar, Subhash Maharia, who has won thrice but never raised the issue strongly.
A senior PHED official blames indifference by the Centre as well as state governments. “Both, Centre and the state, were equally responsible as none heeded to the initiatives in the past,” he rues. He said that four years back, Centre had sought a detailed project report, which was duly sent and the projected plan outlay was Rs 300 crore under which over 300 villages of Ramgarh, Laxmangarh and Fatehpur were to be covered.
“The Umbrella project, as it was called, however, remains in a limbo as the Centre never allocated the funds,” said the official. He informed TOI that treatment of the local water was an expensive exercise and experiments in the past had flopped. “Treating one litre of water will cost Rs 10 so it is an unviable option,” he added.
The Umbrella project entailed bringing Indira Canal water from Churu and Bikaner to the most-affected villages for which 30 to 40 local minor projects had been planned. “Had the project taken shape, potable water to the villagers could have been a reality by this time,’ said the official, who was involved in the entire project planning.