Minutes after the 50-wagon Jaldoot Express pulled into Latur railway station carrying 25 lakh litres of drinking water — enough to take care of the city’s daily needs — Kavita Kamble and her family became the first ones to receive a 200 litre barrel at their doorstep.
“I can’t believe the water has come from Miraj straight to our residence. It’s a lucky day for us — I was just stepping out to go for my daughter’s wedding,” said Kavita, 40, from Kranti Nagar.
The train had left Miraj in Sangli district, about 342 km away, at 10.55 pm Tuesday. After it reached Latur Wednesday morning, tankers made 450 trips to bring water to each household. Usually the tankers collect water from three nearby dams, which are also beginning to run dry. The train had previously made nine such trips with 10 wagons, carrying 5 lakh litres of water each time. The Indian Express was at Latur station Wednesday morning, when Jaldoot pulled in.
7.52 am: As Jaldoot arrives at Latur railway station, railway workers gather, connecting pipes to collect water. Twenty minutes later, the decanting process starts. The train has reached later than expected “because of three express trains that run on the section during the night”, explains R K Sharma, senior divisional manager (operations), Solapur division of Central Railways. During the day, says Sharma, they have been running Jaldoot almost like a superfast train. “On one occasion last week, it reached in 6 hours-35 minutes, logging a speed of nearly 50 kmph — almost like superfast train. Today’s delay was a one-off thing,” says Sharma.
8.10 am: The ‘Jaldoot team’ of driver S B Khot, assistant loco pilot B G Kolekar and guard Sikandar Nabais head for the changing room. Regarding the delay, they all say: “No, no, kuch problem nahin hai.” Nabais says his family is excited he was on board the train carrying water to Latur. “It is a big moment for all of us in the railways,” he says.
8.30 am: Locals gather to catch a glimpse of the train. As Sohal Nagar resident Jainuddin Sayyed approaches the wagons, his four-year-old son Mujjamil tries to leap out of his arms to touch the train. “Bahut achcha lag raha hai (Feels great),” says Mujjamil, as his father lets him stand on the side of the train. “For the last 10 days, TV channels and newspapers have been showing pictures of Jaldoot. Mujjamil has been insisting we go see the paani ki gaadi,” says Jainuddin.
Shivraj Kasbe, 65, too woke up at 5 am. He first went to Harangul railway station, which falls on the way to Latur, and then took his two-wheeler to see Jaldoot. “I wanted to see the entire process. In such a short time, the railways and the government readied the infrastructure in Latur to decant and carry water in tankers,” he says.
9 am: The first tanker leaves the station, followed by two more. It reaches the civic water treatment plant at Arvi, about 3 km away, ten minutes later.
10.10 am: The first tanker leaves Arvi treatment plant. It heads through Shivaji Road in the heart of the city at a speed of 30 kmph. It stops at a kutcha road, in front of Kavita Kamble’s home. “The tanker could have missed me today since I had to rush for my daughter’s wedding at 12.30 pm. There was not a drop of water in the house,” says Kavita. “Our family has nine people. We take a bath on alternate days because we could not afford to buy water every day,” says Kavita. “I hope we now get water more frequently than eight-ten days.”
When contacted, Municipal Commissioner Sudhakar Telang said that since the frequency of the 50-wagon train will go up, they are considering providing drinking water every four-five days instead of the current six-eight days.
Each tanker can carry about 6,000 litre water. As he leaves, Kavita says, “They should run the train every day.”
Kranti Nagar, which has a population of about 10,000, gets water every eight-ten days, say residents. An official with the civic water planning department, visits the locality and tells residents that they can now expect water every four days.
The promise means everything to residents of Latur, where taps have been running dry since February.