State red tape hits BMC's water wagon for drought areas

Apr 08, 2013, 06:21 IST | Sujit Mahamulkar and Shashank Rao

The civic body is keen on roping in Central Railway to disburse drinking water to drought-ridden areas via railway wagons, but the state water supply department has poured cold water over the plan

If Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s crude remarks about urinating in dams to raise water levels shocked you, there is yet more evidence of the state government’s utter apathy in attempting to alleviate the suffering of parched souls across the state. It appears that the state government has been pouring cold water over the BMC’s plan of sending 25 lakh litres of drinking water to drought-stricken parts of the state.

File Pic/Atul Kamble

The BMC had chalked out a plan to send a wagon full of drinking water to drought-ridden districts, using the state’s extensive railway network to reach remote corners of the state. Mayor Sunil Prabhu had even discussed the idea with the senior civic officials and the administration was also on board with the idea. “The civic officials have been in touch with the state government officials. It seems they are not very keen. I wrote to the chief minister to look into it,” said Prabhu.

The wagons will first have to be scrubbed clean and leached of all oil residue, after which water from dams can be poured into them. Pic for representation

Permission is required from the state government if the BMC is to have access to the services of the Central Railway to despatch the water where it is direly needed. Prabhu explained, “We cannot approach the railway authority directly. The demand for a wagon should go through the state government. We are trying, but have not received expected response from the state government.”

“We are ready but we have to approach the Central Railway through the state government and the officials of the state water supply department are not cooperating,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity. Other state officials claimed to be oblivious about the plan altogether. Sunil Porwal, principal secretary (Water Supply and Sanitation), said, “I am not aware of any such proposal from the BMC.”

The state is at present reeling under drought, with parts of the state like Marathwada and Vidarbha experiencing acute water shortage. Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani, Osmanabad and Hingoli are among the worst-affected areas, while Manmad and a few talukas in the Satara district have also been left high and dry by the scanty rains last year. The process of collecting water from rivers, transferring it to the wagons and finally transporting it to remote villages is also not an easy task.

Sources in railways claim that they can execute the BMC’s plans only once they get a green signal from the state government. “It takes at least 45 days to first clean the wagons, remove oil slick as these wagons are used to transport diesel and oil, and then pour litres of water into it,” explained a senior railway official.

The wagons will first have to be scrubbed clean and leached of all oil residue, after which water from dams can be poured into them. The wagons can then be carried to different villages as per the requirements, unhooked from the trains and sent to designated destinations. Each round-shaped wagon can carry around 50,000 litres of water at a time. Each goods train can pull 45 to 49 wagons at a time.

'Should we urinate?'
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar yesterday apologised for ridiculing a two-month-long protest by a farmer, who was demanding the release of water from a dam for his parched field. In a statement issued in the evening, Pawar said he is sorry for “hurting sentiments of people in Maharashtra with his comment”.

Ajit Pawar

In a rally at Indapur, Pune district, on Saturday, he had said, “There is this person from Solapur, sitting on hunger strike for 55 days demanding water be released from the dam. But where are we going to get water from? Should we urinate?”

Not stopping there, he cracked another crass joke, saying: “When we are not getting water to drink even urine is not coming easily.” Pawar is also the nephew of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and a senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Tweet talk

@ShirishKunder Ajit Pawar was piss-quoted... This only proves one thing. Ajit Pawar no longer has control over his inner monologue.
@ashokepandit Ajit Pawar should be asked to live without water till the time he realises the importance of water and how to respect human beings.
@JaiTharur To bee or not to bee? Rahul Gandhi. To pee or not to pee? Ajit Pawar

25 lakh
Litres of water that can be sent through a single train

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