Pramod Kumar, 35 years old, a resident of Ward No. 7, Shahpur Khotha Village of Khairwan Darp Panchayat in Sheohar Block is a “Jalabandhu” – a mobile hand pump mechanic.

Pramod shared that his father passed away when he was just 10 years old. At that time, the impact of his loss was not yet clear. Later, he experienced the consequences of a hard life. Being the eldest among six siblings, he had to shoulder the responsibilities of the entire family. Though he was a good student, he was forced to leave school to support his mother who started working as an agricultural labourer to make ends meet. However, there were still many days when his mother and sister had to go to sleep hungry.

In order to earn extra money to support his family, Pramod helped his uncle repair cycles and carry out plumbing work. While helping his uncle, Pramod gained the skills of repairing PHE6 hand pumps. During his plumbing assignments, Pramod gained more and more skills in repairing hand pumps. The villagers regularly had to get mechanics from outside the Block to get hand pumps repaired. This resulted in increased down time (even up to 24 days in some cases) as well as greater expense. Pramod noticed this and started thinking about how he could address this challenge.

Pramod’s ideas came to fruition when Water For People – India initiated its Jalabandhu flagship program in 2011. Through this initiative, Water For People – India aimed at reducing the downtime of defunct hand pumps and keep them functioning. Pramod participated in the technical training program on repairing different types of hand pumps and also took part in the subsequent follow-up training.

He was also given a toolkit and linked to various water points installed in the Gram Panchayats. The Water User Committees (WUCs) of these water points were able to contact Pramod in case a hand pump needed to be repaired.

To establish his credibility, Pramod proactively reached out to the WUCs. During this interview, he recalled that he received the first phone call from a lady, asking him to come and repair the hand pump in their village. His first earning was Rs. 150 which he got for his first service.

Today, Pramod is one of the most successful Jalabandhu working in Sheohar. Besides repairing the hand pumps, which is the prime source of drinking water, he also handles the drilling work for installation of new hand pumps in the communities and schools, earning between Rs. 10,000 to 12,000 per month. He used to repair 25 to 30 hand pumps every month. His efforts have reduced downtime from 24 days to 1.5 to 2 days.

“To date I have drilled more than 350 hand pumps,” Pramod said. “And I have participated in various awareness programs organised by Water For People – India, talking to the community members about the importance of safe drinking water.”

He continues to share “I am better able to take care of the needs of my family today. I have paid off the loan that my mother had borrowed after my father’s death. I aspire to give good education to my children and fulfill all their needs”.

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