On duty,Tanker No. 233https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/on-duty-tanker-no-233/

On duty,Tanker No. 233

All of them want water—and they all want it “now”.

At Parvati Water Works,one of the seven tanker filling stations in Pune,every morning for the last three months has been marked by ceaselessly ringing phones as people call for water tankers. Individuals,corporators,chairmen and secretaries of the housing societies make desperate calls or just walk in. All of them want water—and they all want it “now”.

The tanker filling station caters to at least 70 private tankers,apart from three tankers operated by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). While the PMC tankers provide water to housing societies and individuals,mostly free,private tankers supply water to construction sites,hotels,multiplexes and hostels and often charge above the prescribed rates.

Despite the frequent calls,including occasional requests-cum-threats from local corporators and ‘dadas’,the working at the station is impressively smooth for a government concern. Pravin Taru,the paaniwala on duty,writes down the address of each society carefully,along with the payment slip number and contact details of the society chairman on a receipt book. As he swipes the card on the automatic vending machine and feeds ‘10,000’ on the keypad,the port starts filling up the tanker. One tanker costs Rs 500.

Once filled up,tanker No. 233 leaves for Aditya Nakoda Enclave,Phase II,Sinhagad Road with a team of two—Shetty Datre,the driver and Saibu Kamble,the peon. It’s 11.30 a.m.,and it’s their third trip.

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Tanker No. 233 is among the 100 tankers,private and government-owned,which have become a lifeline for many residential areas,commercial enterprises and educational institutions. As the tanker reaches the housing society,it’s welcomed by the chairman. Shetty parks the vehicle as close as he can to the society tank. “The pipe with us is only 80 feet long,” says the chairman. Kamble gets the pipe,joins it to the tanker outlet and makes it leak proof by tying the rubber trips. The other end of the pipe is connected to the tank.

By now,half the occupants of the building are downstairs,happiness and relief on their faces.

“We haven’t received water for the last five days,” says Jayant Date,a resident.

Shetty and Kamble rest as the water tanker takes 15-20 minutes to empty out. “Whenever there is severe shortage,the two private tankers employed by the corporation disappear. They make good money by selling water outside,besides the commission they get from the PMC. This overburdens us,” says Shetty,who works from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. as there’s no other driver to replace him. “But I get paid for my overtime work,so it’s all right.”

Kamble says it’s easier to supply water to societies than to slums. “Residents almost attack the tanker with all the pots,jars and utensils that they have in their homes. There are quarrels and disputes. We have to handle it,” he says.

Everyday,the tanker has to make at least eight trips,sometimes late at night. Shetty and Kamble often miss their lunch.