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Parched Maharashtra village looks to 'water wives' for relief

June 06, 2015 01:15 IST

Faced with acute drinking water shortage, some men of Maharashtra’s Denganmal village are marrying a second or third wife, whose duty it is to fetch drinking water for the family.

When the water wife, who does not usually share the marital bed, becomes too old to continue, the husband sometimes takes a third and younger spouse to fetch the water in metal pitchers or makeshift containers.

The only drinking water comes from two wells at the foot of a nearby rocky hill, a spot so crowded that the sweltering walk and wait can take hours, reports Reuters.

Sakhri (R) and Bhaagi (L), wives of Sakharam Bhagat, carry metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra. Becoming what are known as "water wives" allows the women, often widows or single mothers, to regain respect in conservative rural India by carrying water from the well quite some distance from the remote village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

A woman carries an improvised plastic can to fetch water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Sakhri (L), the second wife of Sakharam Bhagat, listens to Tuki, the first wife of Sakharam Bhagat as she washes utensils outside their house in Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Sakharam Bhagat, 66, poses with his wives, Sakhri, Tuki and Bhaagi (L to R) inside their house in Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

A picture of Sakharam Bhagat, with his wives, Tuki, Sakhri and Bhaagi (L to R) is seen on a wall inside their house in Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Sakhri, the second wife of Sakharam Bhagat carries a metal pitcher filled with water from a well outside her village in Denganmal. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

A man makes bundles of dry grass at a temporary shelter in Denganmal. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Sakhri, the second wife of Sakharam Bhagat washes utensils outside their house in Denganmal. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Metal pitchers used for storing water are seen in a room in Sakharam Bhagat's house in Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Bhaagi (R) and Sakhri (L), who are married to Sakharam Bhagat, leave their house to fetch water from a well outside Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Bhaagi (L) and Sakhri (2nd from L), wives of Sakharam Bhagat (R) walk to fetch water from a well outside Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Bhaagi (L), third wife of Sakharam Bhagat, takes out water from a well as Sakhri (R) helps her outside their village in Denganmal. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

A woman helps another in carrying metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Namdeo poses with his wives Shivarti (L) and Bagabai (R) outside their house in Denganmal village, Maharashtra. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Bagabai, first wife of Namdeo, listens to him inside their house in Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Shivarti, the second wife of Namdeo, holds her grandson while carrying metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

A villager sits on a hill overlooking part of Bhatsa dam on the outskirts of Denganmal village, Maharashtra. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters