For an elixir that makes human existence possible, water does not get the credit it deserves. Nor does this most precious of resources attract the sort of everyday attention that, say, oil does. That is to the detriment of everybody. On the global and country levels, two pieces of depressing data — from among a multitude of terrifying statistics and projections — illustrate why: more than two billion people around the world do not have access to clean water, and over 600 million Indians have to live with high-to-extreme water stress.
There is much uncertainty surrounding water, whether with availability or quality, but we can be certain about one reality: it is the poor and the marginalised who suffer the most from lack of access to clean water, and have the least in terms of the means to buy their way out of the crisis. This is an issue that the Union and state governments understand well enough, which explains the importance attached to water programmes such as the ambitious and far-reaching Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM).
Civil society organisations have pitched in with support for government efforts to ease India’s water woes. The Tata Trusts, for their part, have contributed to the water cause with a range of initiatives that have reached some 4.5 million people in 7,000-plus villages in 15 states. Our cover story examines the minutiae of these multidimensional endeavours and the difference they make for village communities, particularly women.
This edition of Horizons also features interviews with personalities who stand out in their chosen fields. Bharat Lal, currently heading the National Centre for Good Governance and previously the founder director of JJM, expounds on the water issue and how the country is tackling it; Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, explains the social, economic and political implications of India becoming the most populous nation in the world; and social activist Priti Patkar talks about the progress made on two critical subjects: human trafficking and child rights.
In Centre Stage, and in the accompanying Showcase section, we focus on women weavers from Assam who have been given a leg up by Antaran, the crafts-based livelihood programme. Our feature stories segment comprises a women-centric skilling project with cybersecurity on its mind; a study that has tracked Covid’s impact on school education; an initiative to improve government health facilities in Madhya Pradesh; and an early-education programme in Karnataka that concentrates on childcare centres and the tutors there. Wrapping it up is Rahul Srivastava with a telling perspective on urban planning and design in India.Christabelle Noronha
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