They are popular in the Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring states as “Hand pump waali chachis”, who have been repairing hand pumps and tube wells for free for the last nine years

“Hand pump waali chachis” have been repairing tube wells and hand pumps for free.

CHHATARPUR, MADHYA PRADESH:  A group of tribal women from Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur often travel to different parts of the state to help villagers in need. Dressed in colourful saris, their heads covered, the group of 15 can be seen carrying bags containing screws and fasteners, nuts and bolts and hammers.
A self-taught band of tribal women, armed with spanners and hammers, is going from village to village repairing tubewells in drought-hit Bundelkhand.

The appear like messiahs in this parched land, where getting help is a hard as finding water, villagers say. They get calls from villages up to 50km away, and walk all the way under the scorching sun. With monsoon delayed and rivers and ponds shrinking, a single tubewell is often the lifeline of a cluster of hamlets, and these women keep it running. Seema, who leads the group, said: “The moment we get a message for repair, we set off immediately. There are no ifs and buts.”

The group of 15 hails from Jhiriyajhor village of Ghuwara tehsil in Chhatarpur. By the time mechanics of public health engineering department turn up, it is too late, the villagers say. Rather than wait for government help, they call the “tubewell chachis.” As the water table recedes under a prolonged summer, the number of calls goes up but the feisty band is undeterred. The women have repaired more than 100 tube wells this season. “We understand the plight of villagers who go without water. The drought has added to our workload but we don’t mind,” said Mira, one of the group of 15.

District collector Ramesh Bhandari is all praise for them. “The administration is helping them with equipment and training to enhance their skills,” he said, adding: “They have set an example in this largely male-dominated region, and haven’t shirked their responsibility as homemakers, either.

They are popular in Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring states as “Hand pump waali chachis”, who repair hand pumps and tube wells for free. They have been walking around villages and fixing faulty pumps for the last nine years. Sometimes they have walked for over 25 kms at a stretch to reach a broken pumps. These women have even travelled to the national capital. But they never comaplin as they are driven by a purpose — to help villagers.

They never went to any school, and without any technical knowledge, these women have been fixing all sorts of pumps with ease.

“We have repaired tube wells in Bhopal, Rajasthan and Delhi. We travel on foot to nearby villages. We have been doing it for many years, but haven’t received any help from authorities,” one of them told news agency ANI.

Gruelling temperatures and water scarcity have made matters worse for villagers. Every single drop of water is precious. The villagers say when the government failed to help them, these women came to their rescue.

It takes months for small repairs if they call government officials, a villager said, but when they call the “chachis” they rush to help.
“We just have to inform them and they always show up to help us. They have never bothered about heat or rain or expenses,” a villager said.