Friends, we launched the programme ‘Satyamev Jayate’ on television in 2012. Through the TV show, we took a look at various issues that afflict our society today. People from not only the country but also the world saw the show and connected with us. Many also put into action the suggestions that we gave through the show. The news of the social changes that ensued because of the show overjoyed us. That told us that people want change and are willing to work for it.
We thought that if we worked in a specific area on a specific issue, perhaps we could be part of a massive social transformation. But what issue should we tackle, we wondered. After considerable thought, we narrowed down on the issue of water scarcity.
The paucity of water is an issue that is universal. It afflicts village and city equally, but more so the village, because no water means no farming. Moreover, women are forced to spend a significant part of their day in fetching water. Children have to miss school because they must wait for the water tanker to arrive. Many people flee from this life-threatening scarcity of water, to the cities. The fact is that India is not a place of poor rainfall. We get more rain than any other country in the world. Why, despite this fact, do we have drought in India?
Our team has researched this issue thoroughly. We travelled to far-flung villages in the state of Maharashtra. We consulted with farmers and experts alike to ascertain where the problem lies.
Our research told us that to a large extent, the issue is a man-made one. It will not do to blame nature alone for this predicament, because our research team, during its travels, also saw many green villages even in regions that had no irrigation. Neither had the government made any special schemes for these villages, nor did the rains favour these villages in any way.
In villages such as Ralegan Siddhi, Hiware Bazar and Hivre, among others, farmers are taking three crops in a year; while surrounding villages have to rely on tankers even for their drinking water. These villages differ from others in an important respect: the residents of these villages set aside their personal conflicts and came together to solve the problem of water scarcity. To solve the problem, they first mended the faultlines along caste and other divisions that existed in their villages.
All these villages had conducted watershed development and water conservation work at a very low cost. A direct result of this work was the rise in groundwater levels around these villages. These villages did not let even a drop of rainwater flow away. By various means they harvested rainwater.
It is possible to do such work in every village and city. Each village can become green and prosperous; this is achievable with basic technology and at a low cost.
We shared our research with the government. When the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, learned that we are striving to tackle the issue of water scarcity in the state, he was overjoyed. He extended his support to our efforts. Many organisations, farmers, industrialists, experts and celebrities joined hands with us. And so Paani Foundation was born! We all share a common aim: to remove drought forever.
Through Paani Foundation, we not only raise public awareness of the drought issue, but also empower farmers by means of technical training. We believe that the largest power to solve this issue lies in the hands of the people themselves. We have seen that wherever this issue has been solved, the solution lay in people’s efforts and collective labour. The shramdaan done by ordinary people has been a greater transformative force than a genie in a bottle. All of us have this power. I am sure of it.
I invite you to the beginning of a water revolution.
(Watch Aamir Khan talk about the journey here.)