Women climb down pits using makeshift bamboo ladders and dig arduously for hours using pickaxe and shovel, mud and clay in search of water sources.
Thiruvananthapuram: Breaking into a male bastion, around 300 women have turned well-diggers in a nondescript village in northern Palakkad district of Kerala to find a solution to the acute water scarcity in the hamlet and earn a living. Even elderly women climb down pits using makeshift bamboo ladders and dig arduously for hours using pickaxe and shovel, removing mud and clay in search of water sources in Pookkottukavu, a village panchayat.
Battling various challenges, these homemakers, aged between 35 and 70 years, have dug up over 190 wells across the drought-hit village since last August under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Lack of skill training and physical limitations are no barrier for them to construct 10-12 metre deep wells, single-handedly digging the harder and rocky terrains of the panchayat.
Lakshmi, a 39-year-old homemaker hailing from Punchappadam in the hamlet, feels proud that they could take up the intense task and achieve success in it. She and other women in the village had decided to take up the risky job to ensure steady daily wage to support their family.
“We did not know anything about well digging initially. But, we relied on our group effort and confidence. We gradually learnt the basics of the work through our experience,” Lakshmi said.
With a total population of over 20,000, Pookkottukavu, located about 40 km away from Palakkad town, is a hamlet sans larger water bodies and has only wells and tiny ponds as water sources. The panchayat authorities expect that the courageous attitude of women well-diggers would help the village, which largely depends on tanker lorries to get drinking water during summer, to be self-sufficient in terms of water in near future.
According to K.Jayadevan, president of Pookkottukavu panchayat, the women dig wells with utmost perfection as that of their professional and skilled male counterparts.