In a state like Maharashtra which is regularly hit by drought, finding clean water to drink is a challenge in itself. Water problem in Maharashtra has altered the daily life of these people. Daily wears are washed only twice a week while bed sheets and coverlets go unwashed for months at times. It’s generally the women of the family who have to walk long miles together every day in search of clean water. This daily chore generally occupies their whole day. So in the meantime, there is no one left to look after the kids and do the other household chores. This was a problem faced by a lot of families in the villages of Maharashtra with no regular supply of clean water. So, they came up with a unique idea. The men of the village of Dengamnal began marrying again. And these women began to be known as the water wives of Maharashtra.
These unique cases of polygamy may be illegal since polygamy is not supported in India. In rural parts of India, widow and abandoned women are still shunned by the society. They are not allowed to mix with other family members and lead a miserable life. These women are the one who become paaniwali bai (aka water wives). They are married to men looking for Water wife whose sole purpose becomes to fetch water. It’s good that these women can now lead a respectful life, correct?
Unfortunately, majority of these women have low hemoglobin level and suffer from anemia, miscarriages, shifted fertility and menstrual cycles, apart from routine neck and back pains. Their physical growth is stunted and they are unable to produce children. Also because they have to carry heavy weights on their head, they are going bald.
The solution to lack of water in Maharashtra is not polygamy. The life of water wives remains painful and pathetic. While they may not be shunned by the society; they have become laborers whose sole purpose is to fetch water. The state could implement a similar structure in Maharashtra like the one built by Bhagwati Agarwal in Rajasthan.
Click here to watch the popular short film The Wives by ActionAid India.