Barely 28 km away from Mumbai, about 50 women armed with water pots and cans, board the local train at Diva junction for Mumbra station. Unlike Mumbaikars who travel by train to work, these women travel for about 16 km just to fetch clean drinking water from a temple in outside Mumbra (East) station.
Diva residents complained that none of the housing societies here have access to drinking water in their homes. “All the water we receive is supplied from borewells. This water is fit for cleaning and washing, but not for drinking as the borewell water is salty and tasteless. We have no option but to travel all the way to Mumbra,” says Ankita Bodke, a 26-year-old homemaker from Diva, whose family has been surviving on drinking water from Mumbra for the past two to three years at minimum.
To avoid the daily rush-hour traffic, Bodke says the women of her locality leave at around 5 am to catch one of the first trains to Mumbra.
Another woman from Bodke’s group said, “I have been staying in Diva for the past 10 years and I have been going to Mumbra every day to get drinking water. We take two to three containers and fill water for the next couple of days. We board the local train compartment right behind the train driver so that the driver knows that we have to get down. One tap of the temple in Mumbra serves the needs of almost all the households.”
Shobha Deshmukh (38), another aggrieved resident, said that residents are even forced to take water from a water pipeline running between railway tracks at Mumbra railway station.
“There is a railway water pipeline between two platforms. Around 6pm, this pipeline supplies drinking water for about two hours. Standing on the tracks, we check for incoming trains and stand in a line once the trains pass the station. Sometimes there are trains loaded with goods standing on the tracks, which is when we have to maneuver around these to get to the pipeline.”
According to the women, many lives have been lost while crossing the railway tracks. “We participated in demonstrations and morchas, but the reforms are temporary. The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) supply clean drinking water for about three or four days but after that, the problem restarts,” the women said.
TMC Commissioner Aseem Gupta confirmed there is a problem of drinking water supply in Diva. Gupta believes that once a Rs 300-crore project is completed, about 5 million litre of drinking water will be supplied to Diva alone. “There are some illegal water connections which we have not yet removed. Once that is done, we will establish and secure the legal connections. The tender for the project will be floated by May-end. Diva will have hundred percent water supply in two years,” Gupta said