In our country where the Government promises 5 trillion economies and where some people afford to travel in their own private jet, but our country still remains poor and backward, where people do not have the basic facilities like drinking water (Taps) and affordable transport facilities, where poor people walk for miles to reach their destination. In one such incident, a 5-year-old girl died of thirst in the deserts of Rajasthan while walking in the hot sun.
According to the reports, walking for two days across hillocks, sand dunes in Rajasthan, a 5-yr-old died of thirst. Apparently, she had forgotten to carry a water bottle, but the worst thing is there is no tap water available in the rural areas of Rajasthan which is covered with the desert.
Empty stomachs, parched throats, lonely desert, a woman and child, and 32 hours in the open, most of them under the cruel summer sun. Halfway through what was to be a 9-km, well-trod distance, the five-year-old was dead, of a reason unheard of in 2021 even in arid Rajasthan: thirst.
The postmortem said Anjali died of “severe dehydration”. Her grandmother, Sukhi Devi, 60, spent about a week in different hospitals. It is not clear how they ended up thus, or there. Sukhi says they had done the route often earlier; “the only difference was that this time Anjali forgot her water bottle”.
Sukhi and Anjali had set off from home in Raipur in Sirohi on foot on the morning of June 5, to meet Sukhi’s youngest daughter Puja, who lives in Dhuliya in adjacent Jalore.
By road, it is a 19-km distance. But Sukhi took Anjali down a shorter, direct route, around 9-km long, that she had taken often. At 4 pm on June 6, shepherd Nagji Ram discovered the two collapsed near Roda village in Jalore. Anjali was dead by then.
Officials are trying to piece together the 32 hours after Sukhi and Anjali left home. Sukhi says they walked an entire day — “the same route… like I do every time” — spending the night on a hillock, before collapsing the next day. “It was very hot, the sun was strong,” she adds. It hit a high of 40 degrees Celsius that day.
The family says two days and one night was the usual time it took for Sukhi to cover the distance. “Roz ka aana Jaana tha (We would travel every other day),” says Sukhi’s son Mahendra, the second of her three children.
Krishan estimates the two walked 4-5 km the first day, and when they reached the Roda hillock, decided to spend the night there. “No one lives there. The area has just dhorey (dunes) and hillocks. One can’t survive without water for two days, especially a child.”
Krishan says they offered Sukhi some water and called the swasthya Mitra (health worker), who administered her first aid. Since most vehicles can’t negotiate the terrain, Sukhi and Anjali were carried some distance, to where police could reach.
The two were rushed to the Raniwara CHC. Dr. Babulal Purohit, Block Chief Medical Officer, Raniwara, says Sukhi was then referred to Jalore district hospital, followed by Jodhpur Medical College. Mahendra says doctors told them Anjali had “died of thirst”.
With Anjali’s death raising the heat on the state government, Chief Engineer Mathur points out that Roda gets water from a tubewell as well as the Narmada Canal — ensuring “90 liters of water per person per day”.
He also asks why the Centre had cut its assistance for drinking water schemes for a desert state like Rajasthan, from 100% to 45% each by the Centre and state. “Villages have to bear the remaining 10%. Which village can bear 10%?”