The severe shortage of drinking water in almost all villages in the district, and the extended power cuts in rural areas are the two major issues that will decide the fate of candidates in the gram panchayat elections, scheduled to be held in the district on May 8.

A visit to some of the villages in Jewargi, Afzalpur, Chitapur and Sedam taluks reveal the simmering anger of voters against elected representatives for not doing enough to solve the problem.

Mallamma Konenur, a young housewife, and Chennamma Bhusanur — both residents of this relatively big village in Jewargi taluk in the district — do not hide their anger against the elected representatives, particularly outgoing members of the gram panchayat, and the MLA for Jewargi, for not solving the drinking water problem. “What have they done…. After the election, we have not even seen the faces of the MLA or the gram panchayat members.”

Though Kolkur is just a stone's throw away from the barrage constructed across the Bhima, the village has not been provided piped drinking water facility. The residents are dependent on an open well and a borewell, which have almost dried up. The authorities provide drinking water in stand posts installed in the village once in 10 days. “We have to walk at least 2 km to get a pot of water from private borewells,” said Ms. Chennamma.

A drinking water project under the Rajiv Gandhi Technology Mission, to lift water from the Bhima and channel it through pipes to homes in Bilwar village, has been pending for the past six years. Owing to faulty implementation of the project, the people of the village are suffering.

Another major problem in the villages is the lack of proper sanitation and drainage. Only a few houses in the villages have individual toilets, and no village has public toilets. “It is a shame that the authorities have not provided toilets even after so many decades of Independence,” Ms. Chennamma said.

Despite all these shortcomings, the people in almost all villages are enthusiastic about the gram panchayat elections. “We will participate in this election… We will not elect candidates based on party affiliations. Our selection will be purely based on merit and character,” said 70-year-old Bangaramma of Bilwar village.

There is a general disenchantment with outgoing members of almost all the 215 gram panchayats. One of the general trends noticed in such elections is that more than 90 per cent of outgoing members do not seek re-election as political parties choose to support new faces.

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