Girl from primitive Bonda tribe in Odisha digs up well in her village, inspires others

A 25-year-old tribal girl from the primitive Bonda tribe living in Malkangiri district of Odisha has managed to solve the perennial issue of water scarcity in her village by digging up a well along with her three younger sisters, officials said.

Malati Sisa, the first post-graduate from the primitive Bonda tribals, who were first brought to light by renowned anthropologist Verrier Elwin in the 1950s, dug up a well near her home in Bandiguda village with the help of her three sisters.

“I, along with my sisters, decided to dig up a well as it was difficult for my family to get water. Though handpump tube wells have been installed in my village, many have stopped functioning due to poor maintenance. We used to trek for long distances to fetch water from a stream. Then I spoke to my parents and told them about my idea of digging up a well,” said Sisa.

The sisters slogged for about 10 days before they managed to strike water at a depth of 25 feet. A good downpour triggered by cyclone Gulaab filled up the well last week.

“Not only my family, other villagers too are using water from the well. We are using the well water for drinking, bathing, and cultivation. We have sorted out the perennial drinking water crisis,” said Sisa.

Her father Dhabalu Sisa said she was overjoyed with what his daughters have done. She could achieve her dream through her dedication and hard work. The entire village is benefitting from the well,” said her father.

In January 2016, Malati’s father travelled to New Delhi along with his wife Samari as PM Narendra Modi’s guest during the Republic Day function and apprised him about the problems related to road connectivity, drinking water and healthcare facilities faced by his community.

Malati completed her MA from a tribal university in Bhubaneswar becoming the first woman from the Bonda community, which is infamous for low literacy level, to become a postgraduate. During last year’s lockdown, she came down to her village where she realised that she needed to do something about the water crisis.

She said due to financial constraints, she could not put up concrete rings inside the well. But her effort has inspired other youths in the village to dig up wells. There are around 60 families in the village who are now drawing water from these wells for household chores.

The Bonda community, also spelt as Bondo, is one of the very primitive tribal communities living in the uphills of Eastern Ghats. They speak a dialect of the southern Mundari group of Austro-Asiatic language.

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