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Home > Cover Story > Part 1

The Copious Stream of Pure Love

Part 1

The heartwarming story of the historic Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project and the Sri Sathya Sai Village Integrated Programme in the East and West Godavari districts, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Listen to the Audio Documentary
Listen to the Audio Documentary
For those with slower connections, please download each part separately

Independent India is today 62 years old. With its one billion strong population, a thriving democracy, nuclear power plants, several cosmopolitan cities and a resilient and rising economy, it is undoubtedly one of the emerging powerhouses of this world. But this is only one half of the story. The other side of the same coin is the India that lives in the thousands of its villages.

Millions of these rural folk who are untouched by the India of the 21st Century are, literally and figuratively, powerless. Their stories are pathetic and their needs, basic. The tribals living in the interior regions and forests of East Godavari district, in Andhra Pradesh, for example, did not have safe drinking water for scores of decades. But one Pure Aspiration of Bhagavan Baba, and the lives of 600000 poor and innocent villagers have metamorphosed magnificently.

How did this happen? Listen to this documentary. It is a story of Pure Love… rather, one Copious Stream of Pure Love which has drenched, delighted and elevated the lives of over half a million poor rural folk through two historic projects – the Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project and the Sri Sathya Sai Village Integrated Programme, in the East and West Godavari Districts, Andhra Pradesh.

Below is the script of this audio documentary, supplemented liberally with pictures.

The Life of the Tribals of East Godavari – Primitive and Pathetic

Water is life. If life exists on this earth, it is because water exists. In fact, two-thirds of our planet is covered with this life-sustaining element, and this elixir of life is used in a million ways right from washing, gardening and cooking to making chips for computers and sustaining nuclear power plants. And how much water is really available for all these myriad purposes? It is just 3% of the entire water resource on earth, because that is the percentage of fresh water on the surface of our planet!

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Fresh water - so beautiful, so precious
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Over one billion do not have access to this elixir of life
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And among all its uses, one of the most vital is for drinking. Today there are millions whose access to clean water is easy, plentiful and uninterrupted, but at the same time there are over one billion people for whom a glass of pure water to drink everyday is a dream and there are 2.4 billion people who do not have access to adequate sanitation. They are poor, isolated and neglected.

“Earlier, the water problem in our village was acute. We had to travel miles to fetch water and this would invariably be muddy because the animals too came to the same pond. We had to wait for hours for the mud to settle down and only then could we use the water. Drinking this dirty water would often make us sick.”

“Earlier, the water problem in our village was acute. We had to travel miles to fetch water and this would invariably be muddy because the animals too came to the same pond. We had to wait for hours for the mud to settle down and only then could we use the water. Drinking this dirty water would often make us sick.”

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Today 1 in 3 Asians have no access to safe drinking water; and at least 1 in 2 have no access to sanitation
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An estimated 3.5 billion people are likely to be living in water-stressed river basins in just 20 years from now
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This was Ms. Pushpalata, a village lady from the East Godavari district of the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, speaking to the Radio Sai team. Satyawati, another lady from the same region echoed similar feelings:

“Previously, water was always a difficulty in our village. The wells had very little water, and it was unsafe and filled with insects. We used to drink this after filtering; even then this always caused us many diseases.”

The issue of drinking water in these villages and tribal settlements in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh just a few years ago was in fact serious.

“In summer, all our bore wells used to go dry and all we had was muddy water. It was very difficult to drink that filthy water.”

This was yet another village woman, Suryakumari.

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These villages have no electricity, schools or medical facilities and poverty has worsened their water woes
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These wells, which are sparse in the East Godavari district, go dry in the summer months
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A typical hut in the tribal villages in East Godavari
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This is one family's living room cum kitchen
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Yes, drinking water was a major concern in these areas. Most ironically, all these areas in the East Godavari district are located about 10-15 kilometres away from one of India’s most copious and famous rivers, the Godavari. This river is 14 hundred and fifty kilometers long, covering the whole breadth of peninsular India from West to East, and apart from being one of the sacred rivers of India mentioned in many Holy Scriptures, it is also responsible for the prosperity of many cities and towns in the big Indian states of Maharastra and Andhra Pradesh.

No doubt, it is a lifeline for millions, but there are millions of others too who have been deprived of this colossal life-giving resource, even though it flows a few miles away from where they live. And that is because they are without the means to benefit from the river’s resources due to grinding poverty and a complete lack of infrastructure and education.

Can you believe this? Even in this age of super computers and hi-speed communication, in the hilly terrains of East Godavari district there live tribals who wander around in these hillocks and forests with bows and arrows! Their main occupation, just like it was for man in the Stone Age, is hunting.

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Hunting for these tribals, is their passion and profession, being passed on from generations
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These rural and hilly terrains, though poorly developed, are rich in flora and fauna
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“We hunt wild pigs, jungle sheep, and other small animals…of late we haven’t found many animals….there are tigers but it is very difficult to shoot them and they may attack us in return… whenever we are successful with our target, all the four of us share the meat together… I have been hunting from childhood.”

This was Chiranjeevi, a young hunter and his comrades talking to the Radio Sai team. These young men, enterprising in their own way, make such excellent bows and arrows from what is available in the forest that the strength of their weapons would baffle even a modern engineer. Though they smile heartily when asked about their exploits, when one probes more, the sorry tales of their painful existence come out.

They have to walk any number of miles through thick forest everyday, from dawn to dusk, and often they go without a successful hunt for weeks together.

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This the first stage of "Podu Cultivation" - the tribals begin by clearing a patch of forest by felling trees
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Chiranjeevi, an excellent archer with his
self-made bow and arrows
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During the favourable parts of the year, they farm like many other people in this tribal region of East Godavari district. Their kind of agriculture is called “Podu Cultivation”. They clear a patch of land in the forest by cutting down the trees and then use this area to grow a few crops. Once the fertility of the soil is lost after one or two harvests, they move to clear another patch of the jungle in a similar fashion. Well, that is how primitive their way of cultivation is, and generally most of what they produce feeds them for only a few months of the year.

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Sitamma and her husband slog it out through sun and rain to survive, despite all the odds
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Isolated and neglected, they have no one to care for them; sickness can often lead to death
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“We struggle a lot. Men and women work equally hard. That is the only means by which we can earn our livelihood. Two of us live in this house, – my husband and myself. Our physical strength is deteriorating day by day. We eat what we harvest and once it is over, we have to buy rice. For this we need money, so we try to rear cattle… we remain happy in pain and pleasure by hard work.”

“We struggle a lot. Men and women work equally hard. That is the only means by which we can earn our livelihood. Two of us live in this house, – my husband and myself. Our physical strength is deteriorating day by day. We eat what we harvest and once it is over, we have to buy rice. For this we need money, so we try to rear cattle… we remain happy in pain and pleasure by hard work.”

This is the story, in brief, of Sitamma, a tribal lady from the hamlet of Teeragatta Raalu in East Godavari district. These tales actually get worse as one travels into the interior regions. In one of the other hamlets, a tribal lady narrated the story of their neighbour:

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One of this lady's twins died as she helplessly
looked on
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Alphabets are alien to this child - she has to work to help her mother and these are her only clothes
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“This lady had two sons, Ramudu and Lakshmanudu; they were twins. But Ramudu died of illness. The child had fever, but they could not take him to the hospital. It was harvest season and we were all busy in the fields… it happened so suddenly… she has faced lot of difficulties since childhood. She had no money to deliver her babies safely or raise her children….”

This tribal settlement has no electricity, no roads, nowhere to go if one fell sick, no one to teach the small children the basics of education, and yes, the most important fact - they do not know what is safe drinking water. In fact, that is the main reason why people regularly fall sick and even die.

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For these kids, their world consists of nature and a few animals loitering around their hut
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When the kids are tiny they are allowed to play, but once they become youngsters they work in the fields
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Even though it has been more than 60 years since India attained independence, these tribal hamlets and interior villages still live in the India of 19th century. They hunt, farm a little, collect firewood, gather fruits and herbs in the forest, and know nothing about schools, hospitals, or life beyond the hills. They struggle, and have been doing so for decades, generation after generation. No one knows them, no one ever spared a thought for them. The government sporadically layed down a few welfare schemes, but it did little to uplift their life style and lessen their burden. For the large majority, they just did not exist.

Baba Wills to Alleviate the Sufferings of the Poor Tribals

But not for Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Out of the blue, in December 26, 2004, while speaking to the staff of the Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi, Bhagavan Baba, in a casual but very concerned tone, said,

"Currently we are executing a water project for East and West Godavari Districts. It is possible to live without food but not without water. Water is highly essential. These people live by the side of Godavari but they have no potable water. Though water is available nearby, unfortunately they have no access to it. For everything, human effort is very essential. "

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Bhagavan Baba expressed His concern for the East Godavari tribals in a discourse in December 2004
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Even though nobody ever told Bhagavan Baba about the desperate condition of these remote tribals, He just knew that they needed help. He knew how the poor villagers of this region had to depend on polluted streams, and bore wells which often went dry, to find water which was utterly unhygienic. He knew how they were ridden with many diseases, the primary cause for which was unsafe water.

Soon, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, under the direction of Bhagavan Baba, swung into action, and elaborate plans were laid to provide pure drinking water perennially at the door step of every home. The scheme, in principle, was simple. The idea was to set up intake wells near the Godavari River which would draw water by pumps, and then send this collected water to a reservoir, where it would be treated and purified. Finally, this clean water was to be piped to local storage tanks built in designated villages. From these tanks, water would now flow to the cisterns constructed in these villages which would have multiple taps.  

The Execution of the Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project

Even though pretty straightforward on paper, it was a Herculean task for the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust to execute this idea because of the hills and forests in the region. Nevertheless, in less than a year, intake wells came up in Purushottampatnam and Pamaleru in the East Godavari district as well as at Polavaram for a few fortunate villagers in the West Godavari district.

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The sacred Godavari pans the whole of peninsular India
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The two districts where 600,000 poor rural folk were benefitted from
the Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project
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Intake wells like this collected water from the river
(these photos were taken during construction)
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There are two intake wells in East Godavari and one in the West Godavari district
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Hundreds of kilometres of pipes were laid...
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...they had to pass through forests and hills
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The sacred lifeline of millions - The River Godavari
is 1,450 kilometres long
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Many storage tanks and water treatment plants like this were constructed to provide safe water
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Several kilometers of pipes winded through forest pathways, hills and streams, and on the eve of Bhagavan Baba’s 80th Birthday celebrations in November 2005, a few villages had already started receiving safe and pure drinking water; they did not have to place one step outside their village, it was available right in front of their homes and at all times of the day. The joy of these poor tribals knew no bounds.

The Joyful and Grateful Villagers

“Now we do not have any problems, Swami has given us water!”

That was Pushpalata, a tribal woman.

“I have no problems. I am very happy now. We have water, our health is good. Doctors from Sathya Sai Organisation come and give us medicines.
We worship Sai Baba with much joy and longing.”

“I have no problems. I am very happy now. We have water, our health is good. Doctors from Sathya Sai Organisation come and give us medicines. We worship Sai Baba with much joy and longing.”

This is an old man, Jagannadha Reddy.

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Pushpalatha along with other village ladies sing beautiful folk tunes composed specially on Baba
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With the arrival of Sai water and Sai volunteers, these villagers have rediscovered their music and dance
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What joy and enthusiasm!
They celebrate their love for Sai!
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Happiness now springs forth
with the very mention of 'Sai Baba'
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Another Village woman Suryakumari is equally happy.

“After the construction of water tanks by the Sai workers, we have pure drinking water without any problem.”

In fact, what Suryakumari said further was moving.

“I have not seen Swami physically but I worship Him. I want to go to Puttaparthi for voluntary service.”

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Watch Pushpalatha and others sing a fascinating folk tune on their beloved Baba
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Watch how much vibrancy Sai has brought to these villagers by His Pure Love
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When asked why do you want to serve in Puttaparthi? She said,

“He has done so much for us. It is our duty to do whatever little we can for Him by serving in the ashram at Puttaparthi. He has provided us with everything.”

That is how deep the sense of gratitude reverberates in the hearts of these innocent villagers. And Bhagavan Baba too responds to their inner feelings magnificently.

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For them, every Sai volunteer is a revered guest
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Sai has become the centre of their lives
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Godavari Grama Seva Godavari Grama Seva Godavari Grama Seva
 
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The ever-giving and ever-loving Lord, who gifted new lives to the hitherto forgotten poor rural folk
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Part 1

Dear reader, how did you like this story? Did it inspire you in any way? Would you like more such stories focussed on Bhagavan's service projects for the needy and neglected? Please write to us at [email protected] with your name and country. We look forward to your feedback, comments and suggestions to help us serve you better. Thank you very much for your time.

- Heart2Heart Team


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Vol 7 Issue 06 - JUNE 2009
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