A FAMILY stands in a group, eyes stuck at a white-and-blue kiosk at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus platform no 1. The water vending machine kiosk termed ‘water point’ has several buttons, a coin inserting slot and a rate card. After discussing among themselves one of them moves ahead with an empty plastic bottle, pays Rs 5 and fills the 1 litre bottle. The number of people moving ahead to fill their bottles, or purchasing water bottles from the kiosk is slightly more than those standing back peering at the large machine installed by the railway authorities nearly two months back.
The machines, installed across railway stations as an initiative by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), are meant to ensure that purified drinking water is available across railway stations at cheap rates. As per the rate card, if one is carrying an empty bottle, one needs to pay Rs 1 for 300 ml water, Rs 3 for 500 ml, and Rs 5 for 1 litre. If one needs a bottle as well, the rates are Rs 2, Rs 5 and 8 respectively. At most kiosks, through the day, there is a person who helps people understand how to operate the machine. At night however, one has to operate the machine by oneself.
As per a vendor adjacent to the water vending machine, during peak hours, there is a queue of commuters to purchase water from the machine. “Since the past few weeks especially since the temperatures were high, there was a huge rush during peak hours. There are queues if you come around 7.30- 8pm,” the vendor said. He added, “Because of this kiosk, our sales of soft drinks have gone down.”
Outside the kiosk, Alpa Kakkad, a Powai resident, in her thirties has just filled a 1litre bottle at the kiosk. “Normally I carry water from home. However midway through the day, I exhaust the water. On most days, I would purchase a mineral water bottle from outside the station that costs Rs 15. This is the first time I am filling water from here and I had to pay Rs 5 for the same quantity. I hope the quality of the water is good,” Kakkad said.
She added, “Also I hope these machines are more centrally located, something near ticket windows. I have to take a Thane train which is at the other end of the station and had to come all the way here.”
Kartik Panjabi, an 18-year-old Bachelor in Mass Media student from KC college said, “The water is damn cheap. However, I wish that these kiosks were open for 24 hours.”
Manjeet Verma, the attendant at the CST kiosk, however, clarified that the kiosks are open round the clock. “I am present from morning 9pm to 8pm at night. After that while there is no attendant, the kiosk is operational and people can insert coins and get water. However, when I come in the morning, there is at least Rs 500 that is found in the safe. It means people are using these facilities at night as well. Overall during a 24-hour period, nearly 500 litres of water is dispensed with.”
Ram Ashish Chouhan (50), a Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar resident said, “I used to purchase mineral water on a daily basis. This is a good initiative and will help me save money. However, I hope it is safe. If the water quality turns out to be good, I will be queuing up daily to get my dose of water.”