3 killed and 16 injured after school building collapses

Three 10-year-old students were killed and 15 other students and a teacher were injured when the roof and walls of a classroom caved in on them at a zilla parishad (ZP) school at Nimbodi village, around 6km from Ahmednagar city, on Monday evening. Two of the injured children are critical.

The deceased have been identified as Shreyas Rahane, Sumeet Bhingardive and Vaishali Pote, all residents of Nimbodi.

It has been raining heavily in Ahmednagar and its adjoining areas for the last two days.The school building, which was constructed about 20 years ago, was damp due to the rains.

Following the incident, state education minister Vinod Tawde called for a structural audit of all school buildings in the state.

Sub-inspector Sanjay Kawade of the Bhingar police station told TOI that the single storey building collapsed around 5pm, just 10 minutes before the final school bell could ring. “The students and the teacher, Leena Patil, were trapped under the debris. Villagers, the police and Army personnel rushed to the spot to pull out the dead and injured. Earthmovers were pressed into service in the evening to clear the debris.Rescue operations were going on till late at night,” he added.

An official from the education department of the Ahmednagar ZP said on condition of anonymity said that the financial grant for the school building was announced in 1978 and the construction was completed in1998-99. “The building had brick walls and an RCC roof. No structural audit of the building has been conducted in the last 20 years,”.

TOI quoted Deputy director of education Dinkar Temkar saying “Education officers will send a complete report about the collapse to the CEO of the Ahmednagar ZP on Tuesday .”

Source: The Times of India



Speeding tanker kills six software engineers in Pune

The night journey for 15 software engineers was a tragic one. A water tanker rammed into their minibus. Six were killed and nine were injured in the incident that happened late Sunday night.

A report in Mid-day notified that the deceased had gone to Sonai in Ahmednangar district for a friend’s wedding. They had been on their way home to Pune after the function. A Lonikhand police station official mentioned “The young techies who died include Vaibhav Mane (27), Vishal Chauhan (29), Nupur Sahu (26), Akshay Dabhade (28), Mahesh Pawar (28) and Nikhil Jadhav (26).”

As per a report in The Times of India the bodies were taken to Sasson Hospital for postmortem and other procedures. The injured persons were rushed to a private hospital in Wagholi. Inspector Sarjerao Patil stated, “The water tanker was heading towards Ahmednagar when the driver lost control. The vehicle hit the minibus on the opposite direction after it went over the road divider.” Ranjit Kadam , an engineer from the group informed TOI, “I was only fortunate to receive minor injuries on my finger since I was seated next to the driver in the front seat.”

The tanker collided with a car after hitting the minibus. A couple escaped with minor injuries.

Sources: TOI, Mid-Day

It is time – break the silence

“We use cloths during our menstruation period which we have to recycle but because of shortage of water, it is not possible,” says Deepali Balote a 14-year-old girl from Dolasne drought hit village of Ahmendnagar city in Maharashtra. But that is not all. The girls in rural India are not allowed to touch water taps or vessels because it is believed that they will pollute it. “We cannot cook for four days, cannot touch idols and cannot touch pickles or other cooked food while menstruating,’’ she adds.

This is a common scenario in the villages across India. Menstruation is still considered a taboo causing a real harm especially to girls who have just reached their puberty. The girls feel shy and avoid talking about the problems that they face.  Many women and girls in this village are found to use materials such as old rags and newspaper every month due to unavailability of sanitary products and water during the time of periods.

Government of India has been promising sanitation infrastructure for quite some time. With the approval of the National Urban Sanitation Policy in December 2008, the Indian government seeks to address the gap of sanitation in rural areas and organize a systematic sanitation programme. However, in Dolasne, Darewadi and many other villages the gap of sanitation still exists.

“It is difficult to get water from the tankers,” says Aruna Ganesh Shivsagar . She despite being eight months pregnant carries about five buckets of water every day. Like Aruna there are many other women who face similar problems.

These women are also told not to cook food when they menstruate because they will pollute it. They are also not allowed to touch idols as it is believed that they will defile them. Pickles are also not allowed to be touched as they will go rotten by their touch.

The health related problems is one of the main issues the girls and women face during the time of menstruation. Lack of proper hygiene during menstruation also attracts lot of infections.

Ahemadnagar being one of the 19 pilot cities of Maharashtra is yet to come up with a proper sanitation plan. “There is no toilet in my house and it is really painful to always go to the fields,” says Laxmibai Baban Jadhav. The situation worsens during the drought season. “Forget washing clothes, there is no water even to wash ourselves during the time of drought,” she said.  There are hundreds of these villagers who defecate in the open because of the lack of access to toilets. It is because of this that there are a lot of health related problems such as infection of the small intestine and lack of nutrients for proper growth and development.

Beyond superstition and discrimination, many Indian women face lack of clean, safe and proper lavatory facilities. Sanitation is among the most dismal and depressing topics in Ahmednagar. It is stuck at a primitive stage and very few people have access to toilets.

Even for the people who want to adopt proper sanitation by constructing a toilet near their house are unhappy. The water shortage has affected them a great deal in achieving proper sanitation facility as their toilet construction has been on hold. “I am regretting my decision to construct a toilet as it has been kept on hold for two years now. I am still going to the fields,” says Savita Roy Das Pawde, resident of Dalewadi village.

Water shortage has heightened the problem of menstruation and sanitation. It is indeed a trying time for women to bathe during the time of menstruation because of the scarcity of water. Forget about proper disposable methods, these women do not even have any privacy when they have to change their sanitary cloth. It has also been observed that there has been a drastic drop in the number of girl students after they reach puberty. “There is no toilet facility in my school and I have nowhere to change or dispose of my pad. My family insists on me to stay at home and get married,” says Dipali Arun Auti class 9 student of Bhairavnath Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Dolasne.

These girls and women do not bathe during menstruation and most of them reuse previously used cloths for absorption. Without any accurate knowledge about menstrual hygiene, the girls adhere only to cultural practices and taboos. In fact, bathing restrictions is just one example from the wide range of menstrual taboos that they go through.

It will take several years or probably generations to bring in systematic sanitation in rural India. Apart from having a proper lavatory it is education also that matters. The taboo needs to be changed. Anecdotally, it is observed that only those girls in India who do not believe in any superstitions regarding menstruation are those with educated mothers. The best way to change the minds of all the future women in Ahmednagar is to keep the girls in school today and to have basic lavatory facilities are one of the easiest way to do that.


Managing water one ‘step’ at a time

Pradeep Pawde: ” Everyone supported the idea. Half of the financial help came from the villagers only.”

The relationship between droughts and Kumbharwadi in Ahmednagar district goes back to the 1970s where the village suffered immense hunger and poverty. But today, the story of Kumbharwadi is completely different as it religiously follows ‘water-budgeting’ that helps the villagers in keeping a track of the amount of water being used every week.

In a small chat with Pradeep Pawde, the manager of the village’s water-budgeting, acquaints us with what prompted them to opt for it, the villagers’ contribution and the change it has brought in their agricultural activities.

Q. Why did the village decide to go for water-budgeting system?

A. The watershed development programme initiated by WOTR treated the shallow soils of the village. So, water would get stored easily. But due to less rainfall, the water levels started decreasing. On top of it, we were using the water injudiciously. Last year, when we experienced drought again, WOTR suggested this system.

Q. Who financed this programme?

A. After suggested we go for water-budgeting system, I immediately called for a village meeting to get everyone’s opinion. Luckily, everyone supported the idea. Half of the financial help came from the villagers only and the other half from WOTR.

Q. How does this programme work?

A. See, this is a special programme which happens only after the watershed development program has been implemented. Here, that started in 1998 and ended on 2002. The water-budgeting table shows total area of the village, availability of water, temperature, pressure, wind intensity and speed, rainfall measurement of Kumbharwadi. It is updated every week. So, we know how much water is being used. Borewells and open wells are also being measured to find out the groundwater level.

Q. How has this new programme affected the villagers?

A. People are now using water more carefully. They now realize the value of water more.

The water-budgeting table: Painted on the outer wall of a village house

Q. How are the farmers managing?

A. Crops like tomatoes and onions that require flood irrigation are not being grown anymore. Instead, pomegranates are being grown. They are also using water saving devices like sprinkles. This year, about 30 farmers installed drip irrigation of one hectare each.

Q. So, have they earned any profits yet?

A. It’s been just one year. I can’t say. Initially, only four farmers started drip irrigation. This year, the number reached 30. Next year, who knows? Before water-budgeting, there was no mechanism. Now they can assess rainfall and thus groundwater available after the rains. Accordingly, crops to be planted in the winters can be planned. If there is surplus, summer plans can also be planned. 

“I have only heard about the watershed management”

The lush green hills you pass as you approach the small village of Dolasane , in Ahmednagar district will make you wonder if this was the same place which was under severe drought last year. The area reflects the success of the watershed management programme initiated here. But when you enter the dreary village of  Dolasane you realize that the grass is not all that green in reality.

Waiting In Hope: Suganda Lokhande is still to reap the benefits of the watershed programme
Waiting In Hope: Suganda Lokhande is still to reap the benefits of the watershed programme

The village is yet to recover from the shackles of the drought. Fifty-five year old Suganda Lokhande has been trudging to and from the nearest water body daily for as long as she can remember. Her day starts early as early as 5.30 in the morning. She has no tap in her house and is forced to walk for miles daily to get water for drinking.

“I have only heard about the watershed management,” she says adding that it hasn’t really benefitted a landless villager like her. Widowed two years ago, she is left to fend for her son and two daughters.

Suganda Lokhande is not alone. With water hard to come by, the women of the region invariably have to make the rounds of the village well to fetch water for their families. Finding enough water for family chores in the dry summer months was even harder. They have to depend on tankers for water.

Due to the shortage of water, Suganda is forced to seek employment outside the village.” I work as a daily wage labourer in the neighboring villages,”  she says adding that she earns Rs. 150 for an entire days  work. As the other villages are 30-40 km away from Dolasane, Suganda pays the pick-up  van Rs. 40 daily  for transportation.

Outside the village saw a small shop selling Idea SIM cards. Strangely we live in world where people have more  access to mobile phones than to  safe drinking water.