Ranchi (Jharkhand): Maoists might not welcome roads - fearing these would provide access to their hideouts - but extend full "cooperation" to the government machinery when it comes to drinking water, say officials working in Jharkhand`s rural areas.
"There are no problems from the Maoists, as everyone needs water...in fact, they help us," a state government official said on condition of anonymity.
Large parts of the backward but mineral-rich state are under Maoist rebel influence, with as many as 20 of the 24 districts considered to be under the sway of left-wing extremism.
The official said lower-level Maoist functionaries interact with the government staff on a daily basis when it comes to repairing old handpumps and borewells or setting up new ones to provide drinking water to tribal populations.
As the water stress months - March to June - have set in, the demand for drinking water works would go up in the rural areas.
"Some of their (Maoists`) demands are genuine," said an official involved with the survey and setting up of borewell projects in the rebel dominated areas.
Though waterfalls in the hilly parts of the state have been conventional sources of drinking water, bacterial contamination in recent years has rendered the water bodies unfit for human consumption, say officials.
Though plans to increase piped water supply, which remains low at seven percent in the state, may take some more years, officials said borewells and handpumps are the only viable means to provide drinking water in rural areas.
As a result, Jharkhand has the highest density of handpumps in the country with 61 persons per unit.
In Jharkhand, large swathes of the population do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation. About 30 percent of habitations have partial drinking water facilities and groundwater sources contain fluoride, arsenic and iron.
Officials claim that the problem of arsenic is now confined to three blocks Udhwa, Rajmahal and Sahebganj in the northeastern parts of the state and that they will finish treating in the next 18 months under a special scheme.
Laying stress on drinking water supply, the state aims to increase spending on it from three percent to 10 percent during the 12th Five Year Plan from 2012-13 to 2016-17.