Orphanage founder in drought-hit Beed to go on hunger strike demanding water supply

Santosh Garje, who runs an orphanage for 85-odd children in Maharashtra’s drought-hit Beed district, is going to sit on an indefinite hunger strike outside tehsildar’s office in Georai tehsil from Tuesday. Reason? Despite following up with the district administration for a year, the orphanage has still not got the water supply needed to fulfil its daily needs.

Garje has been buying around 10,000 litres of water from private suppliers, at a cost of Rs 1,200 a day, since January 2018. As the orphanage is run through public participation, spending more than Rs 36,000 a month only on water is no longer feasible.

Beed district collector M Devendra Singh said he had no idea about any such demand from the orphanage and arrangements can be done if they approach him.

Garje founded Sahara Anathalaya Parivar, an orphanage known as Balgram, in 2004, when he was 18.

Set up on a 3-acre plot in a small village, Govindwadi, it provides accommodation facilities, school premises and has an orchard of over 100 trees. The objective was to provide shelter and school education to destitute children and orphans, including those from families that saw farmer suicides. The monthly expense of the orphanage comes to around Rs 2 lakh, most of it which is managed through donations.

The first application to provide water supply was made on April 29, 2016, based on which the collector’s office sent a directive to the tehsildar to take appropriate action. “We used to manage things as we have constructed a well on the premises. After the drought, the well went dry and now things have gone beyond our control,” Garje said.

“I also tried to set up borewell at three places on the premises, but the attempts failed. Since January 2018, the orphanage is getting water through tankers from private suppliers. The only relief was two months of monsoon.”

Garje later met rural development minister Pankaja Munde, who is also the guardian minister of the district, and Raksha Khadse, Member of Parliament from Raver Lok Sabha constituency, to no avail.

According to his documents, a copy of which is with HT, Sahara Anathalaya Parivar sent the letters to the district collector and tehsildar on October 8, 2018 and February 5, 2019, respectively.

“It is the responsibility of the district administration to provide water to all citizens. Currently, 381 tankers ply daily in the district. I have not received any such application from the orphanage. If they are facing any such issue, they should come and meet me. It will be resolved,” said the district collector.

“I have ordered the tehsildar to do the needful in the orphanage case. The issue will be resolved soon. It is being delayed because of some rules to save water till the next monsoon. The orphanage will start getting water tanker in a day or two,” Munde said, in reply to a text message.

Beed is one of the 25 districts in the state that has been facing drought and water scarcity.

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 15:52 IST

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