Marathwada, one of the most water-deprived regions of Maharashtra, is facing its fourth consecutive year of drought. When water becomes a prized possession, more than an assumed privilege, with a lot more demand than available supply, the economic, agricultural and political impact of this slowly corrodes the cohesive fabric of society as villages and today, even neighbours and even family members fight over whatever little water is left in this small village.
Good news came when a ‘water train’ made its way to the drought-hit arid region where villages have been receiving water once every ten to twelve days. As reported by The Indian Express, a train with 50 tankers, normally used to transport oil and fuel, with the ability to store 54,000 litres of water in each wagon reached Miraj on Sunday afternoon. Coming in from Kota where the tanks were thoroughly steam cleaned to remove all residual substances and made suitable to carry clean water, water was filled in the tankers at Miraj before the train carried forward to its final destination--Latur. In Latur, Dr Kalyan Barmade, secretary of Indian Medical Association, stated, “The announcement of the train bringing water has come as a huge relief for Latur… people do nothing except look for water.”
A railway official stated that a second train with 50 wagons is expected to be ready for water loading by April 15. “As per instructions from the Ministry of Railways, Kota workshop received two good trains consisting of 50 tank wagons each for deployment in drought-affected areas of Latur during the summer season and the trips of the trains will be arranged as per the requirement,” he added.
A new water pipelines is being laid by the state’s government from the railway filtration plant to Miraj railway station located three kilometres away Latur’s District Collector, Pandurang Pole, told The Indian Express. He added that one trip made by the train can provide as much water as 450 tankers supply to the region. “Currently, over 400 tankers are making rounds of Latur city daily and over 200 water tankers are deployed in rural areas,” he said. “The water train will help us a lot. We have some water reserves that should last till the monsoon arrives.” BJP supporters climbed onto the train and plastered it with posters to show their appreciation for the intervention made by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Railways Minister, Suresh Prabhu, in providing relief during what is said to be the worst water crisis of the region in decades.
This special water train was received in Latur with resounding cheers and celebrations, but it also stirred a debate regarding water scarcity in neighbouring regions who are demanding a share of the water brought in, six police officials even boarded the train it was reported, due to rising security concern with villages the train passed on its route asking for water.
Shortly after the train’s eagerly-awaited arrival, Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal commended Narendra Modi’s relief efforts and even offered to supply 10 lakh litres of water everyday for two months, as per reports, “provided the Centre agrees to it.” Kejriwal shared his letter addressed to the Prime Minister with the public via Twitter further adding: “If the central government can make arrangements to send this water to Latur, the Delhi government will make this water available immediately.” His position was reaffirmed by the capital’s Water Minister Kapil Mishra who consequently tweeted, “The Delhi Jal Board is ready sir. We can save water and send it to our brothers and sisters in Latur.” Kejriwal acknowledged the shortage of water that Delhi itself faces, however the situation in Latur where lakhs of people are suffering to get access to clean drinking water is unacceptable and as citizens of the country, it’s the responsibility of everyone to come to their aid, he stated in the letter. Though his stance is being questioned and debated by other, such as former Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dixit, his intention to provide water, the most basic necessity for all human beings, to deprived citizens of Marathwada comes with good intentions.
Feature image courtesy: The Indian Express.