While district and railway officials are working overtime to get the 50-wagon “water train” rolling from Miraj, residents in Latur district, especially rural people living outside the city, seem agitated.
The villagers, especially those living along railway tracks, plan to pressure railways to stop the train en route before Latur station, so they can get their stock of water.
From an eight-year-old to an 80-year-old, all seem to be waiting for the train. While some say they plan to go in a delegation and meet railway officials, others plan to protest at nearby stations to get their message across. Then, there are those who believe only a morcha on the tracks was the way out.
With Latur staring at its “worst ever” water crisis in decades, with its main source of drinking water, the Manjara dam, completely dry since February, the state government has decided to send trains filled with water from Vaarna dam in Miraj, 8 km from Sangli town. Trial runs of the train have been on since Monday, when the first train with its 10 wagons carrying 5 lakh litre of water set off from Miraj and reached Latur, 342 km away the next morning. On Wednesday, another 10-wagon train left from Miraj at 11 am and reached Latur around 7.30 pm.
“What train are you talking about? Is it the one coming from Miraj? Can you ensure the train stops for us? There is
a huge water tank in our area… Put all the water in this tank,” said Limbabai Bhandge (70), sitting in the sun at a water point in Swaraj Nagar area on Barshi Road just outside Latur city.
Limbabai queued up at 5 am and at noon, she was still waiting. “Most family members, even children, are in the queue. We have to carry at least 20 pitchers, so our washing, bathing and drinking needs are taken care of,” she said.
Yuvraj Mannade (50) said, “Why are they taking the train to Latur? Why don’t they care for villagers living along tracks?”
At Mahadev Nagar, 15 km from Latur station, residents fill water from cesspools or ponds. “All water sources have dried up. Nearly 2,000 residents have no other work than search for water,” said Ankush Gaikwad. “Check the pond from where we get water… it has become dark green,” he said.
District collector Pandurang Pole said they were currently focusing on Latur city. “Water coming from Miraj is being retreated at filtration plants,” he said. A railway spokesperson said, “Any call on stopping the train en route has to be taken by state government.”
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